Hear Judith Miller hailed as a paragon of American journalism! See her enshrined upon a the pedestal of the First Amendment!
If you can stomach it, read this partial transcript from CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” show from Monday:
Well, on this program, we report each day the number of days that “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller has spent in prison for protecting her confidential sources in the investigation of the White House CIA leak case. We do so, frankly, out of respect to her and the sacrifices she’s making, for a principle that has served journalism, free speech and a free press well.
As of today, Ms. Miller has spent 40 full days behind bars, more than any other “New York Times” journalist. Joining me now to discuss the impingement, if you will, on free speech, a free press and certainly the incarceration of Judy Miller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is Floyd Abrams, a renowned First Amendment attorney, serving as her attorney.
Good to see you, Floyd.
FLOYD ABRAMS, JUDITH MILLER’S ATTORNEY: Thanks, Lou.
DOBBS: Let’s begin with 40 days in jail. How much longer is this going to go on? And what purpose does it serve?
ABRAMS: Well, the order of confinement by the judge was that she would stay in jail until she revealed her confidential sources, or until the grand jury expired, which is right now scheduled for October 28th. So it would be until then, unless there was — there were additional legal steps taken against her. But if things go as they’re going right now, I’d say the end of October.
DOBBS: The issue of criminal proceedings has been raised here…
DOBBS: Would Judge Hogan, would Special Counsel Fitzerald, go so far, in your judgment?
ABRAMS: I have to say I don’t think so. But maybe this is wishful thinking. I think they both recognize that she is doing what she not only believes is the right thing to do, but what journalists in general are trained to do, taught to do, and honored for doing.
DOBBS: There is an extraordinary set of currents surrounding Judith Miller, and this instance, in which the left is obviously extraordinarily agitated with her, and the principled stand that she’s taken, and the right is defensive because of the leak that purportedly put at risk a covert agent. How do you react to it?
ABRAMS: Well, I’m just unhappy that so many people can’t distinguish politics from principle. Judy Miller is acting out of principle. She would be acting the same way if her source were from the left or the right, Democrat, Republican, hawk or dove. She made promises of confidentiality. She thinks it’s a matter of honor and adherence to First Amendment principles that she has to keep her word.
Now, people can argue about that, but what’s disturbing to me is that, as you rightly say, from the left and the right, you hear a torrent of criticism, a minority criticism to be sure…
ABRAMS: … but criticism of her by people who can’t abide the idea that she’s doing this out of principle. Which is the only reason she’s doing it.
DOBBS: Arianna Huffington sent out a newsletter, e-mail newsletter, suggesting that Judith Miller was simply not standing on principle, but rather doing so out of self-interest and protecting herself, rather than her confidential sources. How do you respond to that kind of attack?
ABRAMS: Well, let me say first, with Judy Miller in jail, there are limits to what I can say about that. I don’t want to add to her legal risks. But I can say that’s preposterous. It’s not so. And it illustrates what I was talking about earlier. What Arianna Huffington is concerned about, what she dislikes Judy Miller for is not this, but earlier reporting she did on weapons of mass destruction. And because of that reporting, she refuses to give her the credit for acting out of the principle that animates her.
DOBBS: And there is also — and some viewers of this broadcast have said — how can Judith Miller possibly think she stands above the Constitution and the law? We are all beneath the law, serve at the law. We are protected by the law itself. And how can you possibly support her?
How do you respond to that?
ABRAMS: Well, I’d say this. She doesn’t stand above the law. She knows she doesn’t stand above the law. She’s in prison. She didn’t run away. She’s serving her time in prison, as a way of showing, illustrating that she’s not above the law. And the notion that this is some sort of lawless act on her part, as if no one has ever received what the lawyers call a privilege, a right not to reveal sources, it just isn’t so. I don’t have to reveal sources, because I’m a lawyer. I don’t have to reveal her sources, because I’m a lawyer. Priests don’t have to reveal sources. Lots of people don’t. Judy believes that when she made a promise, she committed herself, her honor and her profession, and so she really doesn’t have any choice but to keep her word.
DOBBS: To keep her word, and she should be honored for doing so, because I’ll just speak for myself here simply, I think the prosecutor in this case, the judge in this case is — they are acting injuriously to the First Amendment, and to the society that they say they’re protecting. I understand perhaps their frustrations, but this is a remarkable infringement of our Bill of Rights.
ABRAMS: You know, they’re doing what they think they have a right to do. And Judy is doing what she knows she has to do.
DOBBS: And what I always say when people say, well, Judith Miller thinks she’s above the law here, I always say, well, she is certainly serving her principles, because she’s willing to pay the price of being in prison, which is required by the law.
ABRAMS: And not many people do it.
DOBBS: Not many. But thank goodness we have at least one here.
DOBBS: Thank you, Floyd.
ABRAMS: Thanks. And thanks for your support.
DOBBS: Floyd Abrams.