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Will Libby's "Fishing Expedition" Hook Judy Miller and the Times?


So it appears Scooter Libby and his lawyers have some of the same questions for Judy Miller and the New York Times that we do.

As part of her motion to quash (via TalkLeft), Miller's lawyers submitted a copy of Libby's subpoena to Miller (read it here [pdf]) in which he seeks... well, just about every scrap of paper Judy has that might be, could be, ah what the hell just throw it in anyway, connected to Plamegate.

Lawyers for Miller, the Times, and other news organizations rightly argue that Libby's lawyers are on a "fishing expedition" and casting an overly "wide net" (making every reporter in Washington a potential dolphin doomed by swimming too close to the Plamegate tuna. How long before newspaper bylines are stamped "Subpoena Safe"?). Nevertheless, the Miller subpoena does raise some interesting points -- and amps up the pressure on the Times to come clean about its handling of the Miller episode.

For example, point #7 of the eight-point subpoena reveals that Libby's defense team is as curious as we are about exactly what happened in the Times newsroom after Miller received the exclusive National Intelligence scoop from Libby on July 8th. It requests:

All documents, whenever prepared or received, reflecting or referring to any request or recommendation by you, prior to July 14, 2003, to Jill Abramson or any other employee or agent of The New York Times, to pursue a news story or investigation relating to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger or his claims concerning that trip.

In other words, they too are dying to find out (as we put it):

Did Miller propose writing a story about any of what she heard that day at the St. Regis (or during her two subsequent July 12 phone conversations with Libby)? If not, why not?

If she did pitch the story, which Times editor did she pitch it to? What was their reaction? Why did no story result? Had the editors become so suspect of Miller's sources and reporting that they refused to sign off on the story? Was she officially barred from writing about Iraq/WMD?

This subpoena confirms our expectation that Team Libby intends to attack Judy and what's left of her credibility by airing the Times' dirty laundry -- making it all the more important for the paper to stop operating behind a veil of secrecy when it comes to Miller. And the sooner the better.

Point #5 of the subpoena points up Miller's penchant for talking out of school -- and how dangerous it is for the Times to conflate its interests with Miller's. It requests:

All documents reflecting or pertaining to your conversation with George Freeman concerning Valerie Plame, described in the Vanity Fair article published in March 2006 under the byline of Marie Benner, in which you are reported to have told Mr. Freeman, inter alia, that you talked to many people in government about Ms. Plame before and after Novak's article.

Freeman is the Times in-house counsel. By talking to Marie Brenner about conversations she had with him, has Judy muddied the waters of her attorney-client privilege? Or has she merely proven that she doesn't seem to grasp that what she says -- particularly to other reports (even one as sympathetic as Brenner) -- will get around and become subject to subpoena and defense questioning? Miller has a habit of gossiping to cover her tracks, only to have her claims -- all-too-often -- revealed as self-serving and wildly embellished (see her claims of special Pentagon security clearance or her "silver bullet" claims about the mysterious baseball-cap-wearing Iraqi WMD scientist who turned out to be no such thing).

As we have seen -- and will no doubt be regularly reminded of as the Libby legal maneuverings continue -- Miller is one of the most self-destructive characters in the history of journalism.

Right about now, I imagine it's her own lawyers who are wishing they could lock her up.

Follow Arianna Huffington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ariannahuff