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Senior Democrats call for explanation of reporter's 'WMD clearance'

RAW STORY

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Two senior Democrats have called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to explain an apparent "top secret" clearance given to New York Times reporter Judith Miller while she was on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, RAW STORY has learned.

The best explanation of Miller's access comes from a New York Magazine article from 2004, which was highlighted on Talking Points Memo today.

A New York Times editor confirmed "Miller had helped negotiate her own embedding agreement with the Pentagon—an agreement so sensitive that, according to one Times editor, Rumsfeld himself signed off on it. Although she never fully acknowledged the specific terms of that arrangement in her articles, they were as stringent as any conditions imposed on any reporter in Iraq. “Any articles going out had to be, well, censored,” Pomeroy told me. “The mission contained some highly classified elements and people, what we dubbed the ‘Secret Squirrels,’ and their ‘sources and methods’ had to be protected and a war was about to start.” Before she filed her copy, it would be censored by a colonel who often read the article in his sleeping bag, clutching a small flashlight between his teeth. (When reporters attended tactical meetings with battlefield commanders, they faced similar restrictions.)

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New York Magazine continues: "As Miller covered MET Alpha, it became increasingly clear that she had ceased to respect the boundaries between being an observer and a participant. And as an embedded reporter she went even further, several sources say. While traveling with MET Alpha, according to Pomeroy and one other witness, she wore a military uniform."

The magazine adds "Miller guarded her exclusive access with ferocity. When the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman overlapped in the unit for a day, Miller instructed its members that they couldn’t talk with him. According to Pomeroy, “She told people that she had clearance to be there and Bart didn’t.” (One other witness confirms this account.)"

RAW STORY calls placed to numerous outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, the Washington Post and the BBC were not returned.

Several calls made to the New York Times corporate spokesperson as well as the New York Times Washington bureau chief, Michael Janofsky, went unanswered.

The congressmen's letter follows.

#

October 17, 2005
The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary
Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We write about reports that journalists who were embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq were given security clearances. In her recounting of discussions with Scooter Libby, the Vice President's Chief of Staff, New York Times reporter Judith Miller, disclosed her belief that she had a security clearance. She specifically wrote, "[d]uring the Iraq war, the Pentagon had given me clearance to see secret information as part of my assignment 'embedded' with a special military unit hunting for unconventional weapons." She also noted she was not certain whether her clearance was in existence at the time she met with Mr. Libby.

In order to better understand the scope of the program under which journalists received security clearances, we would appreciate your prompt response to the following questions:

  1. Since March 20, 2003, the date of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, have any journalists been provided with a security clearance or with access to classified information? If so, please explain. At what level were these clearances granted? Were background investigations conducted on these journalists and, if so, in what manner? Of journalists receiving security clearances or access to classified information, how many were embedded with U.S. forces in Iraq?

  2. Who approved the policy of providing journalists with security clearances or with access to classified information? What was the operational reason for granting security clearances to journalists? How does this policy comport with the requirement that classified information be disseminated on a "need to know" basis?

  3. Did each journalist sign documentation delineating their obligation to protect classified information as is required by employees of the federal government? Were journalists required to sign any additional non-disclosure agreements by the Department of the Defense or the military department to which they were assigned? If so, please provide a copy of such an agreement.

  4. Did journalists maintain their clearances after completing participation in the embed program? Are journalists with a security clearance or other access notified upon the revocation or termination of such clearance or access? When does such revocation or termination occur? Have any journalists who are or have been embedded with forces in Iraq had their security clearances revoked or otherwise terminated?

  5. Since March 20, 2003, what journalists were provided with security clearances or other access to classified information? How long did each clearance or access period last?

Please reply through the Judiciary Committee Minority Office, 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel: 202-225-6504) and the Armed Services Committee Minority Office, 2340 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 (tel: 202-226-9007).

Sincerely,

/s

John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary

Ike Skelton
Ranking Member
Committee on Armed Services

Originally published on Monday October 17, 2005.

 


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