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The Judy File

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Ever since I started blogging about Judy Miller's role in Plamegate (and in the selling of the war in Iraq), I've been showered with tips and tidbits about the jailed reporter, whom one e-mailer from Sag Harbor ("her summer hometown") archly referred to as "the amazing Ms. Miller, intrepid girl reporter."

And since I spent the weekend in the vicinity of her summer hometown, some of what I heard was delivered by people who know her well. Together all these pieces of information now comprise my newly labeled -- and ever-expanding -- Judy File.

A recurring theme in many of the conversations and e-mails is how Judy, to the dismay of many of her colleagues, never played by the same rules and standards as other reporters. One source e-mailed to give me some examples of this pattern: "In Feb 2003, Judy was in Salahuddin covering the Iraqi opposition conclave. Iraqi National Congress spokesperson Zaab Sethna told a reporter who was also there that Judy was staying with Chalabi's group in Salahuddin (the rest of the reporters had to stay 30 minutes away in crappy hotels in Irbil), and that the I.N.C. had provided her with a car and a translator (Did the New York Times reimburse them?). The I.N.C. offered another reporter the same, but he turned it down. Judy had just arrived in a bus convoy from Turkey, big footing C.J. Chivers, who was also there covering the story for the Times. While everyone else on the buses had to scramble for accommodations, she was staying in a luxurious villa loaned to the I.N.C. by the Kurdish Democratic Party...

"Two years earlier, she was on assignment in Paris for the Times and conducted her reporting out of the ambassador's personal residence, where she was staying. Felix Rohatyn, the ambassador at the time, was out of town, but it would be interesting to know whether the Times reimbursed U.S. taxpayers for the use of the embassy while she was there on assignment. What is certain is that the Paris bureau was buzzing about this at the time, as getting too close to sources or accepting hospitality -- accommodations, meals -- is a violation of the Times's ethical standards. The feeling was that somehow Judy was able to do whatever she wanted."

For those interested in visiting Judy at the Alexandria Detention Center, one source emailed that Miller's visiting hours "are fully booked until September 15."

Another I ran into told me that the Committee to Protect Journalists is very divided over Miller: "There are those of us who feel that this is not a good case for us to be identified with. There are too many unknowns and too much that's murky here."

The AP reported on Friday that a delegation of the Committee to Protect Journalists (clearly not including those who do not believe that protecting Judy Miller is what they should be doing) visited her last week. During her meeting with the group, which included Tom Brokaw, Miller wore a dark green uniform with "PRISONER" written on the back.

According to the CPJ reps who visited her, Miller told them that while she is allowed to read and write in jail, she's been permitted to go outside only two times in the three weeks she's been locked up. I can't figure this one out. Are prison authorities worried she might get in trouble in the yard? Convince her fellow inmates that Iraq did indeed have (as she wrote in Sept 2002) "12,500 gallons of anthrax, 2,500 gallons of gas gangrene, 1,250 gallons of aflotoxin and 2,000 gallons of botulism throughout the country"?

Besides being able to read and write, she's also able to make long-distance phone calls (collect, I assume). According to a source, she used one of her allowed calls to phone her publisher pal Mort Zuckerman to complain about a Lloyd Grove column that ran in Zuckerman's New York Daily News, in which Grove reported, correctly, that while Miller is in jail her husband, "famed editor Jason Epstein," is cruising around the Mediterranean aboard the Silver Shadow cruise liner. The Grove column included a delicious riff from Chris Buckley. Miller, apparently, was not amused. Grove's piece also featured a priceless quote from Miller's attorney Bob Bennett who, when asked about Epstein's travels, replied, "We all serve our time in our own way."

Speaking of Bennett, we had a brief but memorable e-exchange with him on Friday, when the HuffPost contacted him to ask about a tip I'd gotten that Miller was in the process of negotiating a book deal about her Plamegate/prison experiences. When asked to confirm the story, Bennett e-mailed back a lawyerly: "Where did you get this info?" Was he expecting me to give him the name, address, and blood type of my source? We replied that I had heard it through "publishing sources" -- to which he emailed back: "No Comment".

Thanks, Bob. Should we take "No Comment" to mean "yes" -- since if you'd meant "no" you surely would have said so? Unsolicited advice to Alice Mayhew, Judy Miller's legendary editor at Simon and Schuster (if she's the one negotiating with Bennett): Hold your horses or, if you can't, keep the advance very low. A reporter going to jail to protect her own ass and not a source smells like remainder to me. But what worries my Times sources the most is that it smells like the straw that could break the Gray Lady's back. A lot hinges on how much of what Judy knows Bill Keller and Arthur Sulzberger also know. Keller has been very cagey on the subject. When asked by George Stephanopoulos on Nightline if he knew who Miller's source was, he refused to say yes or no.

And no fewer than four sources have either e-mailed, called, or, in one case, run up to me on the street to tell me that what I termed Miller's "especially close relationship" with Chief Warrant Officer Richard Gonzales, the leader of the WMD-hunting unit Miller was embedded with during the war, might have been, well, very close indeed. According to one insider, Miller had emailed a picture of Gonzales to a colleague at the Times with the message "Lucky Lady".

So thanks to all those who contributed to the Judy File... which is open and ready for more. Keep 'em coming...