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Created: October 22, 2005
Latest Update: October 22, 2005
This backup copy is to be used only if the original site on the Web is not accessible. It is meant to preserve the document for teaching purposes, when sometimes the URLS are changed when sites are updated, or sites are eliminated. Please be certain to give credit if you refer to this to the original URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/22/national/22paper.html. Original URL, consulted: October 22, 2005.
October 22, 2005
Times Editor Expresses Regrets Over Handling of Leak Case
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE
Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, told the newspaper's staff yesterday that he had several regrets over his handling of Judith Miller, the Times reporter who spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury in the C.I.A. leak case.
In a memorandum sent to the staff while he was traveling overseas, Mr. Keller said he wished he had "sat her down for a thorough debriefing" after Ms. Miller had been subpoenaed as a witness in the investigation into the leaking of the name of a C.I.A. operative.
In his first direct criticism of Ms. Miller, Mr. Keller said she "seems to have misled" the newspaper's Washington bureau chief, Philip Taubman, when she was asked by Mr. Taubman if she was one of at least six Washington journalists who had reportedly been told that Valerie Plame was a C.I.A. operative.
And, he wrote, had he known of her "entanglement" with I. Lewis Libby Jr., chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, he might have been more willing to explore compromises with the prosecutor investigating the case.
Mr. Keller also said he had missed "what should have been significant alarm bells" about Ms. Miller's involvement in the C.I.A. leak case. One, he wrote, was that he did not know "Judy had been one of the reporters on the receiving end of the anti-Wilson whisper campaign." Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who criticized the Iraq war, is married to Ms. Plame.
Ms. Miller said in an interview that Mr. Keller's statements were "seriously inaccurate." She also provided The Times with a copy of a memorandum she had sent to Mr. Keller in response.
"I certainly never meant to mislead Phil, nor did I mislead him," she wrote to Mr. Keller, referring to Mr. Taubman.
She wrote that as she had said in an account in The Times last Sunday, she had discussed Mr. Wilson and his wife with government officials, but "I was unaware that there was a deliberate, concerted disinformation campaign to discredit Wilson and that if there had been, I did not think I was a target of it."
She added, "As for your reference to my 'entanglement' with Mr. Libby, I had no personal, social, or other relationship with him except as a source."
Ms. Miller, 57, is taking time off from the newspaper after serving time in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the leak of Ms. Plame's name. Ms. Miller was released from jail after agreeing to testify and turn over her notes to the special prosecutor.
The prosecutor's investigation, which has focused on White House officials, could come to a conclusion next week, possibly with criminal charges.
In his memorandum, Mr. Keller said he regretted waiting a year before confronting problems with Ms. Miller's reporting on unconventional weapons in Iraq. He said he had delayed confronting those problems, because the newspaper had just been through the traumatic Jayson Blair episode, in which a Times reporter was found to have fabricated articles. That led to the departure of Howell Raines, the executive editor, and Gerald Boyd, the managing editor.
"It felt somehow unsavory to begin a tenure by attacking our predecessors," Mr. Keller wrote. But by waiting more than a year, he acknowledged, "we allowed the anger inside and outside the paper to fester.
"Worse, we fear, we fostered an impression that The Times put a higher premium on protecting its reporters than on coming clean with its readers," he wrote.
Copyright 2005, The New York Times Company