July 2005   

Zionist Flack and “WMD” Fabricator
Jailed in Government Witchhunt

Free Judith Miller!

Judith Miller on PBS, August 2002JULY 11 – On July 6, Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the federal district court in Washington, D.C. sentenced New York Times reporter Judith Miller to jail for refusing to divulge her confidential sources to a secret grand jury investigation. Miller faces up to 120 days behind bars, charged with civil contempt of court, until the grand jury ends its term or she cracks and agrees to name names. Another reporter, Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, cut a last-minute deal by agreeing to talk after reportedly receiving a “personal release” from his high-level source freeing him from his commitment to maintain confidentiality. His publisher had already agreed to turn over his notes.

<>Judith Miller on PBS Newshour in August 2002 peddling war propaganda about non-existent Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction.”  (Photo: PBS)
Conservatives love to rail at the “liberal media,” yet the entire bourgeois press serves the interests of the ruling classes that run this and every other capitalist country. The Times in particular assiduously censors and couches the news in its idealized role as the beacon of the “free but responsible (to the bourgeoisie) press.” For her part, Judith Miller is notorious as a purveyor of  treacherous misinformation and a conduit for official disinformation. She played a sinister role in whipping up war fever to justify the U.S. imperialist invasion of Iraq by reporting bogus “evidence” of Saddam Hussein’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD). She has served as one of a select group of “experts” on the Near East for Zionist lobbies.

Nevertheless, the jailing of the Times Miller is an ominous attempt to throttle the press and get the mass media to march in ever-tighter lockstep with the mass murderers in the White House and the Pentagon. In the interest of fighting ever-increasing state control of information, we demand that the warmongering fabricator and Zionist flack Judith Miller be freed.

The case for which Miller is being jailed is curious indeed. On 6 July 2003, former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson published an Op-Ed article in the Times titled, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” reporting on his failure to find any evidence to back U.S. claims that Iraq had purchased uranium yellowcake in Niger. The response of highly placed officials in the Bush administration was to leak to conservative columnist Robert Novak the information that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was an undercover CIA operative working on weapons proliferation. Since it has been made a crime to reveal the names of U.S. intelligence agents, Wilson and various liberals called on the administration to investigate.

The White House agreed to an investigation, which has dragged on for two years, presenting secret “evidence” to a grand jury in Washington. But under the leadership of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Chicago office, the inquiry rather than focusing on high-level White House officials who supplied the leak, or right-winger Novak who published it, instead has gone after journalists who accused the White House of “outing” Plame as payback for Wilson’s refutation of  a key plank of the U.S. justification for war (Cooper) or who didn’t print the leak the Bush administration wanted leaked (Miller).

Why the feds have decided to jail the chief peddler of their “WMD” war propaganda we don’t know. Moreover, it’s no crime in our book to publish the names of CIA undercover operatives, who target those who would fight against U.S. imperialism. As far as we’re concerned, former sleuths like Philip Agee, in his memoir Inside the Company: CIA Diary and subsequent writings, as well as publications like Counterspy and Covert Action Information Bulletin, and Julius Mader’s manual, Who’s Who in the CIA (published by East Germany in the late ’60s), performed a public service by shining light on “the Company’s” deadly deeds.

The leaking of the name of the spouse of an administration critic is obviously a different kettle of fish. James Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson were placed on the Bush administration’s equivalent of Nixon’s “Enemies List,” against whom all manner of “dirty tricks” were to be used in order to “screw” political opponents. Some in the media have argued that the Times and Miller shouldn’t have gone to the wall on this case, since whoever they are shielding is bound to be a certified sleazeball, like Bush’s chief political operative Karl Rove or Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis Libby. No doubt, but it makes no difference.

With Miller’s track record, it is highly unlikely that anyone who isn’t on the government’s payroll would talk to her in the first place. Many Times staffers reportedly flee at her approach, no doubt worried about contamination, nuclear/bio-chemical or moral. It wouldn’t surprise us one bit if she was a source of the leak. But the federal investigation is not about discovering who Miller talked to or who “blew the cover” of Valerie Plame. The White House turned that inside out and is using this case to punish the “liberal media” and to intimidate any insider who would dare blow the whistle on the government’s dirty secrets.

Time Warner, Inc., which publishes Time magazine, argued that it had to comply with Judge Hogan’s order because the press is not “above the law.” But “the law” is a reflection of the balance of class forces. Moreover, 49 out of 50 states have journalistic “shield laws” which permit (in differing degrees) reporters to refuse to hand over the names of informants whose identities they promised to protect. All sides understand that without the expectation that they will be shielded against retribution, few “whistle-blowers” will come forward to reveal what they know, for fear of the consequences.

Members of Newspaper Guild protest against jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, July 6.  (Photo: AP)

Yet there is no federal shield law, which journalists’ unions including the Newspaper Guild and Communications Workers of America have called for. As several courts have recently ordered journalists to reveal their sources or go to jail, and since the Supreme Court refused to issue an injunction in this case, a crescendo of attacks can be expected on the state laws that supposedly safeguard journalistic investigations. Already there is self-censorship: the Cleveland Plain Dealer has announced that it is withholding two “profoundly important” stories “of significant interest to the public,” because “jail is too high a price to pay.” And after Time caved in order to protect its corporate profits, anyone thinking of spilling the beans to a big media journalist knows they can’t rely on any assurances they are given.

The Judith Miller case is part of an offensive to build an impregnable wall of government secrecy and persecute anyone who would breach it. Last year, more than 15 million government documents were classified, more than doubling since 11 September 2001; federal departments are now classifying documents at the rate of 125 a minute, 2 every second, including everything from mine safety reports to the fact that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is interested in “fencing, boxing and horseback riding” (New York Times, 3 July). Requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) are met with endless delays or simply refused.

Meanwhile, the administration has beaten down a series of recent “unfriendly” investigative reports, even though in each case the basic facts were true. Last fall, in the 2004 election campaign, CBS-TV news anchor Dan Rather ran a piece on 60 Minutes about how George W. Bush had been a “no-show” in his military service in a “champagne unit” of the Texas Air National Guard. Questions were raised about a typed report by the unit’s commander, although his secretary confirmed that its contents reflected his views. Rather was forced out and several journalists were fired; although they all stood by the story, CBS retracted the report.

This spring, Newsweek reported that a Pentagon investigation found that interrogators at the Guantánamo prison camp had flushed a Koran down the toilet. After this news set off angry protests in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the White House declared that there was no evidence except the prisoners’ complaints (which by their definition don’t count). Under fire, Newsweek (owned by the liberal Washington Post) backed down and issued a retraction, in which it said it would curb the use of confidential sources. Yet a week later, the Pentagon reported that guards’ water balloons drenched a Koran, obscenities were scrawled in a Koran, an interrogator stomped on a Koran and a guard urinated on the Muslim holy book, supposedly by accident! 

Bush is taking a cue here from his British poodle, Tony Blair, whose government viciously responded to a British Broadcasting Company report that the prime minister’s director of communications, Alastair Campbell, had “sexed up” a September 2002 dossier making the case for war on Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons that could be launched within “45 minutes.” The defense minister leaked the name of the source of the BBC interview, David Kelly. Campbell did hype the intelligence, which was “dead wrong” in the first place, but official panels absolved the PM, Kelley was (at the very least) driven to suicide, and the BBC was purged.

New York Times executive editor Bill Keller is keen to cast his paper and reporter Miller as profiles in courage, ready to brave jail in order to honor their commitment to maintaining the confidentiality of sources. The Times is much enamored of its front-page motto, “all the news that’s fit to print,” and its vow “without fear or favor.” Yet this self-proclaimed “newspaper of record” generally hews closely to the government line about what news is fit to print. Keller (son of George, long-time CEO of the oil giant Chevron, which included Condoleezza Rice on its board) recently had to admit that even liberals consider the Times, and the “mainstream media” generally, as “lapdogs of the Bush Administration, instigators of the war in Iraq” (The New Yorker, 14 February). 

The New York Times is no defender of a “free press” and Judith Miller is no First Amendment heroine. The Times’ own year-after evaluation of its coverage of Iraq leading up to the war delicately remarked that some of its reporting was “not as rigorous as it should have been” (New York Times, 26 May 2004). It admits that it “fell for misinformation” from exile sources such as Ahmad Chalabi, the convicted embezzler with longstanding ties to the Israeli Mossad who was the favorite of the Pentagon war hawks. But its retrospective carefully does not mention the particular role of Miller, who reproduced Chalabi’s lies and fabrications in story after front-page story about Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction.”

This broken-down trailer was alleged by U.S. to be mobile bio-weapons lab,
a claim repeated by Judith Miller, later shown to be false. Miller peddled
fabrications by Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, a Pentagon favorite who received
more than $1 million from the U.S. for “information collection program.”

(Photo: 101st Airborne Division. Graphics: PBS, Cursor)

Miller herself is no ordinary journalist. Although she reportedly does not speak Arabic, she has covered the Near East for almost two decades, with a focus on Islamic fundamentalism and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq; likewise, although she has no scientific background, she became the Times’ expert on bio-terrorism. Miller was touted as one of a list of “experts” on the region by the Middle East Forum, run by Daniel Pipes (son of the notorious anti-Soviet crusader Richard Pipes and co-author of statements of the Project for a New American Century). The MEF is a Zionist lobby whose mission includes “fighting radical Islam (rather than terrorism),” “more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia” and driving Syria out of Lebanon. It is also the parent group of “Campus Watch,” which targets academics critical of Israel.

Miller uses translations from the Arab press provided by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute), whose staff is loaded with “former” members of Israeli intelligence (see Brian Whitaker, “Selective Memri,” London Guardian, 13 August 2002). And while Miller’s articles on Hussein’s non-existent WMDs played a key role in U.S. war propaganda during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it was not the first time she played this role. A dozen years earlier, Miller co-authored a best-seller that made the case for the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf  (1990). That book was written together with Laurie Mylroie, who worked at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Judith Miller’s ties to pro-Israel lobbies and “neo-conservatives” in the Bush administration are only a particularly egregious case of the age-old links between bourgeois governments and the bourgeois press. Sometimes this consists of interchanging roles, like Leslie Gelb, who went from the defense department in the LBJ administration to the Times (where he was correspondent, columnist and Op Ed page editor) to assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration. In other cases it is via carefully cultivated relations with privileged sources, like liberal Bob Woodward’s entrée to the White House which enables him to write “behind the scenes” accounts based on cozy relations with George Bush and Colin Powell. The Bush gang like its predecessors is constantly seeking to “spin” the news through its favorite journalists.

The scribbling classes like to think of themselves as a “Fourth Estate,” a distinct branch of government, whose job is to keep tabs on the rest. This harks back to late 18th-century France, where in the Estates General (the parliamentary body called together by the dying monarchy), in addition to the three main “estates” of the feudal order (clergy, nobility, burghers), an informal “fourth estate” of journalists and publicists inhabiting the press gallery was a key component in the constellation of power. And indeed, a proliferation of newspapers and periodicals played an important role as spokesmen for the radical petty bourgeoisie and ascendant bourgeoisie in the French Revolution.

But the New York Times and the rest of the bourgeois media today and for the last two centuries are no Ami du Peuple (Friend of the People, the newspaper of the Jacobin revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat). Rather, they are the friends and confidants of the high and mighty, as mouthpieces for the capitalist ruling class. In France, the classic land of the revolutionary press, in the post-revolutionary period the bourgeois press was up to its necks in virtually every corruption scandal, from the Panama stock swindle of 1888 to the Stavisky affair of 1934, as well as in the 1894-1906 Dreyfus affair when a Jewish officer was framed-up and convicted of treason On the pages of the big papers. Press corruption in the ’30s played a significant role in the crumbling of the Third Republic in the face of burgeoning right-wing reaction.

In the United States, for all the noble talk of defending “freedom of the press” going back to the 1735 seditious libel prosecution of New York newspaperman John Peter Zenger, a more accurate description of the role of the media is H.L. Mencken’s aphorism, “Freedom of press is limited to those who own one.” Journalists like Time’s Matt Cooper may talk a good line, before caving in, but it is the bosses of the big business media (owned by defense contractors and entertainment conglomerates) who call the shots. This is true both of the right-wing scandal-mongering gutter press like Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, and of the “gray old lady,” the staid “establishment” New York Times.

The Times recalls its glory days of printing the Pentagon Papers (a secret study of Washington decision-making in the Vietnam War, prepared by Leslie Gelb when he was at Defense) over the objections of the Nixon White House (represented by then assistant attorney, now Supreme Court chief justice, William Rehnquist). They don’t mention how the Times buried news of the impending 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Castro’s Cuba at the request of the Democratic Kennedy administration; how Arthur Sulzberger let the CIA park its agents in Times bureaus around the world and at the Agency’s request pulled the paper’s correspondent out of Guatemala on the eve of the 1954 coup; or how in the 1920s Adolph Sulzberger sat on the story about the Teapot Dome oil scandal (of illegally leasing the naval oil reserves to private companies) to avoid embarrassing the Republican Harding administration.

In recent years, particularly with the Internet (created and controlled by the Pentagon), there has been a rise in media “watchdogs,” both right-wingers like the late Reed Irvine’s AIM (Accuracy in Media), who specialize in witch hunts, and liberals like FAIR (Freedom and Accuracy in Reporting), who track the Bush administration’s countless Iraq lies. (FAIR called on the Times to reveal its sources in the Plame case.) Some media “defense” organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists serve as fronts for intelligence agencies’ efforts to destabilize “unfriendly” governments like Castro’s Cuba. While they voice platitudes about the “free press,” the bottom line is they all reflect the views and interests of different sections of the bourgeoisie.

The Times’ mild mea culpas over its Iraq coverage came about because the U.S. colonial occupation is in deep trouble. For that matter, the Times published the Pentagon Papers because the U.S. ruling class had split over continuing its losing war in Vietnam. And it only published the papers after the Supreme Court okayed it. On the other hand, you don’t see Times editors talking about how in the ’80s they found “fit to print” bogus stories about Soviet “toy bombs” in Afghanistan, a total fabrication cooked up by the CIA. In Afghanistan the U.S. prevailed, they figure, setting the stage for the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, so what’s to confess? Out of that imperialist victory, achieved by funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to murderous Islamic fundamentalists, came the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and 11 September 2001.

The image of the press as crusading reporters, ferreting out dark secrets and meeting with confidential sources in underground parking garages, is left over from the Watergate period. Richard Nixon had won reelection to a second term, and his determination to crush antiwar protests was summed up in the phrase “No Mr. Nice Guy.” But even top-level military brass by that point viewed the Vietnam War as unwinnable, and when Nixon operatives messed up a “black bag” burglary at a Democratic Party office, a top-level “Deep Throat” spilled the story to Woodward and Bernstein of the Post. That leaker turns out to have been FBI deputy director Mark Felt, who ordered break-ins against antiwar radicals. Felt was angry over not being named J. Edgar Hoover’s successor, but the leaks exposed the government’s machinations and made possible further revelations about the CIA.

That was then, and now we are in a different political period, in which the American ruling class is determined to lord it over the entire planet as the “sole superpower” and “indispensable nation.” While they have gotten bogged down in the quicksands of the Near East, recalling the quagmire of the jungles of Vietnam, the dominant sector of U.S. imperialism is not now prepared to pull out of Iraq. Meanwhile, Republican right-wingers who feel they have an electoral “mandate” (with the support of barely a quarter of the electorate), are trying to tighten their clamp on the courts that put Bush in office in the first place. Veteran radio journalist Daniel Schorr recalled how in 1976 a public outcry stopped a House committee from holding him in contempt of Congress for refusing to name his source for a secret report on CIA skulduggery. “Today they would send me to jail without a murmur,” he commented.

The bourgeois press has always been the handmaiden of capitalist power, a “whore of the republic,” who bestows her favors on her various benefactors who stalk the corridors of power. Legions of American journalists were “embedded” with U.S. military units during the Iraq invasion. Judith Miller was among them, but went even further and tried to take over Mobile Exploitation Team (MET) Alpha searching for the ever-elusive “WMDs,” which were her claim to fame. But while Miller is an extreme and particularly noxious example, up there  with the Times’ Baghdad bureau chief John Burns and columnist Thomas Friedman, the entire U.S. “mainstream media” were in bed with the government, as were the Democrats, who dutifully voted for the declaration of war, the war budget, the Patriot Act and all the rest.

The Bush administration long ago took the measure of the “liberal media” and found them to be a bunch of pushovers, just as pusillanimous as the loser Democrats they are allied with. As “lapdogs for the Bush Administration,” they hardly need to be housebroken. A little bit of intimidation was enough to force the retirement of Dan Rather, fire four CBS journalists and wrest a retraction from Newsweek. A decade earlier Ted Turner’s CNN bowed to George Bush I and sacked Peter Arnett, who had been a thorn in the government’s side with his reports from Baghdad during the Gulf War. Now a little jail time for the Times’ Judith Miller will serve as a rap on the knuckles for her bosses on 43rd Street and a reminder not to get out of line.

But much as we despise the kept press of the bourgeoisie and its cynical posturing, while underscoring its role as censors and public opinion manufacturers for the ruling class, it is important to understand that this case is part of a rising tide of repression. Again, this case is not about finding who “outed” Valerie Plame; the sordid journalist who fingered her (Novak) is not being prosecuted, and instead they went after the magazine that denounced this as White House retribution (Time) and the newspaper that didn’t print the “authorized” leak (the Times). It is part of a broader offensive to bring the pliant liberal media to heel, and a drive by the regime to enforce government secrecy as part of the “war on terror.” As we have remarked before, imperialist war abroad means police-state repression “at home,” to regiment the country for war without end.

Judith Miller was not only a cheerleader for the invasion and “drum major for war,” in liberal media critic Norman Solomon’s phrase, she is at the very least a conscious and eager accessory to mass murder, with the blood of thousands of dead Iraqis on the keys of her laptop computer. But she is being jailed as part of the onslaught against the right of free speech that is supposedly “enshrined” in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Class-conscious workers and all defenders of democratic rights should demand that Judith Miller be freed in order to defend their right to know the secrets of the government that oppresses them and the rest of the world.

Today, we occasionally get a peek at a tiny part of those dark secrets through the rare unauthorized leak, like the photos that emerged of the pervasive torture, sexual degradation and murder of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. It will take international socialist revolution to reveal the full scope of the crimes dreamed up by these sick warmongers in the White House, the Pentagon and Langley and justified by their camp followers in the capitalist media.

In the early days of the Soviet republic, under Lenin and Trotsky, amid a flowering of culture suddenly freed from the shackles of the tsarist autocracy, revolutionary architects Konstantin Melnikov and the Vesnin brothers (Aleksandr and Viktor) drew up plans for the Moscow offices of the Communist newspaper, the Leningrad Pravda (The Truth). Both designs had windows on all sides so that the workers could look in and see what the journalists were up to. Needless to say, under Stalin’s bureaucratic rule these plans were never realized. When workers soviets rule, led by a genuinely revolutionary party, such a building will be built as the home for a revolutionary press that really is an Ami du Peuple. n

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com