Tuesday, October 18, 2005




Miller Receives SPJ Award, Gets Standing Ovation in Vegas

By KEN RITTER, Associated Press Writer

Published: October 18, 2005 1:54 PM ET
LAS VEGAS (AP) New York Times reporter Judith Miller defended her decision to go to jail to protect a source and told a journalism conference Tuesday that reporters need a federal shield law so that others won't face the same sanctions.

Miller was jailed 85 days for refusing to reveal the source who disclosed the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame.

"Ultimately we protect sources so people will come forth -- so people will know," she told the national conference of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Miller received a standing ovation from more than half the crowd of about 350 journalists when she was presented with the group's First Amendment Award.

During a 12-minute speech, Miller defended her reporting and her decision to go to jail, saying she "could not risk a fishing expedition into all my intelligence sources."

"It is the freedom of people to talk to the press without getting in trouble, it is that right that's under assault today," she said.

Later, Miller was to take part in a panel discussion about whether reporters should be legally shielded from revealing confidential sources. The First Amendment does not protect reporters from grand jury subpoenas, the Supreme Court has ruled.

On Wednesday, Miller is due to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of a federal shield law, said Bruce Sanford, a First Amendment lawyer and consul for SPJ.

Miller became a focus of the discussion about shield laws while fighting a special prosecutor's attempts to compel her to tell a grand jury how the name of Plame was made public in July 2003.

Plame's name was exposed eight days after Plame's husband, Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, published an opinion article in the Times saying the administration had manipulated prewar intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs to justify going to war.

Miller, 57, never wrote a story about Plame, but was jailed for contempt of court for refusing to testify about her confidential sources.

She was released Sept. 29 after saying Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had released her from her obligation to keep his name secret.

Miller said in her speech she did not feel comfortable that she had been released from her pledge of confidentiality until she heard from Libby personally.

Miller has since testified twice before the grand jury and said in a first-person account in the Times last the weekend that in June and July of 2003 she discussed Wilson with Libby.

However, Miller said she could not remember who told her the name she wrote in her notebook as "Valerie Flame."

SPJ President Irwin Gratz, a radio producer for Maine Public Broadcasting in Portland, said 22 members of the society's board ratified the First Amendment Award on Saturday to recognize Miller's refusal to cooperate with prosecutors, her pursuit of the case to the Supreme Court and her willingness to go to jail.

"What she has done is shine a bright light on the need for a federal shield law," Gratz said.

"That's important because confidentiality often is the only way we can find out information that is important to the public," Gratz said.

Gratz said the board was aware there was some criticism of Miller, including her decision to testify before the grand jury as well as the Times' handling of the story.

"There was opportunity to change our mind if we wanted to do that," Gratz said. "We haven't wanted to do that."

Associated Press special correspondent Linda Deutsch, a longtime courts reporter in Los Angeles, also was to receive a First Amendment Award during the convention.

SPJ is an organization with about 9,700 television, radio, print and student members nationwide.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?