Judith Miller's 2nd Source

Monday, October 17, 2005

Judith Miller's 2nd Source

Over the weekend, we learned that Dick Cheney's chief of staff wasn't the only source that New York Times reporter Judith Miller supposedly had for the Valerie Plame disclosure. According to NPR, Miller says that she had a second source, although she claims that she cannot remember whom that other source was.

Am I the only one who finds that hard to believe?

I may not have worked for the lofty likes of the New York Times, but I did work as a reporter for a weekly newspaper in the South years ago when I ran right smack into a similar situation. And I can tell you that such information is not easily forgotten by a reporter.

In 1984, a debate was planned for congressional candidates in an open seat. The debate's sponsor excluded an independent candidate whom, it was believed, was more likely to draw votes away from the Democratic nominee. In a side conversation, I was told by someone connected to the debate sponsor that the campaign manager for the Democratic candidate had used threats and harassment to convince the sponsor to disallow the independent candidate.

My editor approved the story, and our state's second-largest newspaper picked it up, running a front-page article with my name in it. I was half flattered and half stressed out because that campaign manager phoned me right after the story broke to tell me he had secured an attorney and was preparing to sue me for libel. His threats turned out to be a lot of hot air, but it took a few weeks before this wet-behind-the-ears, 22-year-old reporter figured that out.

All of those events are still etched in my mind -- substantially and sequentially. It's the kind of story that every reporter lives for, it's the kind of story that gives a reporter an adrenalin rush that isn't matched by any street drug. Here it is, 21 years later, and I still vividly remember all of the particulars: who told me what, where they were standing when they told me, and where I was sitting.

So forgive me for the long tale, but I shared it to help explain why I find Miller's forgetfulness hard to buy.

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