10/23/2005 12:28 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Public Editor Tries to Find Out: Did Miller Have a Security Clearance?

Significant news for readers of my post, Thanks for the Link, New York Times. Now Please Answer My Question.

The Times public editor, Barney Calame, tried to get an answer to the same question I asked: what about these special security "clearances" Judith Miller has said she had? Did she really have them? He reports that he couldn't nail it down. "Couldn't" by the deadline for his column, that is. I'm sure he will keep asking.

This tells me there's an internal story there. My guess is the Times had as much trouble as I did trying to figure out from Miller's fantasia what her clearances actually were. It also tells me the Times knows it has to answer the outstanding questions about her access, most likely in a news story about Miller, or possibly through the public editor. Here's what Calame wrote:

ANOTHER troubling ethical issue that I haven't yet been able to nail down is whether Ms. Miller holds a government security clearance - something that could restrict her ability to share with editors the information she gathers.

He mentions the same contradictions I did. "The Times needs to review Ms. Miller's journalistic practices as soon as possible," he declared, "especially because she disputes some accounts of her conduct that have come to light since the leak investigation began." The public editor calling for a review of Miller's practices is significant, as well.

I think what the Times needs to do first is sever its connection with this person, and let Robert Bennett, her able attorney, dispute the accounts of her conduct that will in any honest accounting come to light. What Judy Miller says has evidentiary value, but we would be foolish, and the Times would be foolish, to trust even a word. If your aim is to find out what happened, treat her as a hostile witness.

But it doesn't matter what I say, or you say. When enough people who work for Bill Keller let him know they won't work with Judith Miller the issue will be settled.
Jay Rosen teaches journalism at New York University. His weblog is PressThink.