01/05/2014 09:09 am ET Updated Mar 07, 2014

Why John Miller Returned To The NYPD

Ever since New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio picked Bill Bratton as police commission, there was chatter that CBS News correspondent John Miller, who twice worked for Bratton, could leave journalism for a law enforcement job. Soon, rumors spread that Miller would likely be tapped for a top counter-terrorism or intelligence position.

On Dec. 12, I asked Miller if he was rejoining his good friend Bratton at the NYPD. At that time, Miller said he had not received "any formal offer for any particular position." While Bratton may not have put a specific offer to Miller in writing, a New York Times profile of the two men this weekend describes how there was at least an informal offer on the table a week earlier.

Minutes after the news conference [on Dec. 5] announcing that he would serve a second term as New York City's police commissioner, William J. Bratton and a group of close friends sat down over rigatoni and meatballs at Ferdinando's Focacceria, a subway-tiled Sicilian joint a few blocks from the docks in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The location and the lunch guests were classic Bratton. Gathered at a table in the back, under photos of Palermo and a stamped-tin ceiling, was a kind of kitchen cabinet: Mr. Bratton's wife, his retired-detective bodyguards, some former aides from the Police Department, a few associates from his private security firm and the TV reporter John Miller.

Predictably, the conversation turned to the question of who would follow Mr. Bratton back to the 14th floor of 1 Police Plaza.

As suggestions were made and plates of antipasti passed around, the commissioner-to-be turned to Mr. Miller and made his own suggestion, according to one of the guests. "You need to start thinking seriously," he told his longtime friend, "about coming back." Though it was offered in confidence, word of the appeal circulated quickly in the well-sourced nexus of journalists and government officials who earn their living in the law enforcement world -- and three weeks later, when Mr. Miller went on the air and confirmed that he was indeed leaving his job at CBS to rejoin Mr. Bratton, David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, was less than surprised.

"As soon as the reports came out that de Blasio" -- Bill de Blasio, the city's new mayor -- "was thinking of bringing Bratton back, I immediately assumed that John would be going too," Mr. Rhodes said in an interview. "It was literally the first thing that I thought of."

Miller's return to the NYPD received more attention than the typical revolving door move because the process took place publicly as he came under fire for a glowing "60 Minutes" report on the National Security Agency.

The Dec. 15 piece raised questions over whether Miller -- who already twice left journalism for law enforcement and was expected to once again -- could report aggressively on the NSA. Remarkably, the lengthy "60 Minutes" report included no critics of the NSA's controversial surveillance program.

Miller, however, brushed off anyone questioning his "60 Minutes" report without taking the criticism on its merits.

"He is nothing if not confident," The Times' David Carr wrote, "dismissing his critics as ankle-biting, agenda-ridden bloggers who could not be compelled to get out of their pajamas and do actual reporting."