Journalists with Security Clearances?

I had many levels of security clearance during my long government life as well as access to many "compartments" of information involving projects and intelligence "products" so dear to the state that access to them was limited to those on special "bigot lists."

I understood that with that access came an obligation to the state to protect the secrets of the American government.  This obligation was entered into freely as a member of "the team."  At times a written undertaking of confidentiality was required before access was granted.  I accepted that because I was a public servant.

It could be argued that as historic events recede in time this obligation becomes problematic when confronted with the need to complete the public record, but at the time when access is granted there was not and is not any doubt that someone who accepts secret information from the government, any government, has accepted the government as his/her master,

What then are we to make of the news that Judith Miller says she was granted some sort of security clearance by the Defense Department so that she could participate in the hunt for Iraqi WMD and presumably "write up" the successful result of that search when it occurred.  (DoD so far denies that this is true)  She had previously written in breathless anticipation that such weapons would be found in Iraq after an American invasion, and now we know that the government provided her with access to classified information to facilitate a continuation of her attempt to validate the causes for which we fought.  This continued validation was to be conducted in the pages of the New York Times ("All The News That Is Fit To Print").  This knowledge of her status as a "trusted person" in the eyes of the Bush Administration and her continued "stonewalling" of her colleagues at the Times with regard to the details of her relationship with Administration personalities leads me to the OPINION that her loyalties were divided in at least two directions.

Was she alone in this bifurcated allegiance (government and the news)?  It hardly seems likely.  There were other nationally known journalists who were treated in a very special way by the Bush Administration.  They were welcome guests of the various people of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, were briefed there regularly, and given access to serving military officers to make their "research" more authoritative.  No.  we should not believe that it was only Miller who in my OPINION owed the "right" story to the government.

In Kubrick’s brilliant film, "Full Metal Jacket,"  "Joker" the enlisted "Stars and Stripes" reporter is told by the Saigon bureau chief, a marine lieutenant, that he is to go out and find good news because the "troops need it."  "Stars and Stripes" is a "house" newspaper for the armed forces.

Are the New York Times and other media who have gone out to find "good news because the troops need it," house media of the government?

How many more "Millers" are there?

Pat Lang

Article available with TimesSelect subscription or for purchase THREATS AND RESPONSES: BAGHDAD’S ARSENAL; White House Lists Iraq Steps To Build Banned Weapons

… By JUDITH MILLER and MICHAEL R. GORDONView free preview

September 13, 2002 – InternationalNews853 words



September 8, 2002 – InternationalNews3603 words

Article available with TimesSelect subscription or for purchase U.S. Germ Warfare Review Faults Plan on Enforcement

… By MICHAEL R. GORDON and JUDITH MILLERView free preview 

May 20, 2001 – InternationalNews1844 words

Article available with TimesSelect subscription or for purchase U.S. and Russia Seek New Ways To Detect Cheating on Test Ban

… By MICHAEL R. GORDON and JUDITH MILLERView free preview

October 4, 1999 – InternationalNews1278 words

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12 Responses to Journalists with Security Clearances?

  1. searp says:

    I agree completely. Once you sign the paper, you agree to keep officially designated secrets secret, and this is a fundamental conflict with the role of a real journalist.
    While we’re on the subject of security clearances, I am appalled at the theme that leaking classified information is not a “real crime” because “it is done all the time”. I don’t know a single person with a clearance who doesn’t regard this as a crime and a betrayal of trust.

  2. Serving Patriot says:

    With this quote you nail it exactly:
    “How many more “Millers” are there?”
    I bet Frank Church is spinning in his grave about now.

  3. gloria says:

    How many Millers are there?
    One wonders when the MSM has not really touched on this story, though the pieces keep coming out.

  4. b says:

    Pat, Judith Miller was a SOURCE for Rumsfeld and MET Alpha, only in a secondary position was she a journalist covering them.
    I have tried to catch that here:
    Miller had a rushed-through Secret clearance. But not as a reporter. Rumsfeld needed her on he ground.
    And of course there are more “reporters”, many more.

  5. Michael Murry says:

    I completely reject any notion that the Government of the United States has too few secrets or that the people of the United States have too much information. Precisely the opposite. The more the people know, the fewer opportunities their government has to deceive them. The truth never hurts as much as lies.
    It would surprise me greatly to discover if anyone currently working for the United States Government knows anything at all worth knowing. I get all my important information elsewhere. Our bungling bureaucrats — especially those at the “highest” levels — seem to spend most of their time on our dime spreading malicious, back-stabbing office gossip “classified” only to impress their bosses or credulous suck-up sycophants like Judith Miller and David Broder, et al.
    I share this information, of course, only on the condition that you regard it as “hush-hush,” “on the Q-T,” and “strictly need-to-know super-duper secret background” supplied to you by one whom you may only obliquely refer to as “a former elementary school student.”

  6. Some Guy says:

    I wonder if the investigation into Armstrong Williams’ propoganda payment will open a can of worms? He evidently is under investigation for non-compliance, as in he was paid but did not deliver (at least as much as he was paid for). If true, it might offer a window into other efforts to secure cooperation from journalists. All complete speculation, but it will be interesting to see what happens with that.
    As for Miller, I expect her to find a cushy gig on FOX once she has officially severed ties from NYT and published her apologia book.

  7. Curious says:

    More commentary.
    (This whole Judy thing is very strange. The plot and lies are so thick.)
    NEW YORK Since the posting of The New York Times lengthy article on Judith Miller’s involvement in the Plame scandal Saturday, much of the Web has been abuzz with the revelation that she had some sort of special classified status while embedded with troops in Iraq at one point.
    The issue came to the fore after Miller, in recounting her grand jury testimony, wrote about how her former classified status figured in her discussions with I. Lewis Libby. She was even pressed by the prosecutor on this matter.
    E&P columnist William E. Jackson Jr., had first raised this issue in a 2003 column published on E&P’s Web site. On Sunday, former CBS national security correspondent Bill Lynch posted his views in a long letter about it at the Romenesko site at Here is the letter:

  8. Curious says:

    Judith Miller was a SOURCE for Rumsfeld and MET Alpha, ~~~ only in a secondary position was she a journalist covering them.
    Posted by: b | 18 October 2005 at 05:01 PM ~~~
    that operation wasn’t exactly trivial right? what sort of clearance does Judy need to tag along in that unit? Plus why such team has a reporter in it? (It’s not exactly action pack crew. It’s mostly research and expedition type. So obviously Miller is there in the hope she will report there is WMD, instead of her reporting military in action. or to put it simply, she is the propaganda gal ready to report WMD. Somebody is putting her there.)
    Who gave her permission to be in there? How high up? What sort of clearance did she have at that time? Does she still have it?

  9. McGee says:

    Speaking as someone who once conducted background investigations as part of their military duties, I find it impossible to believe that a reporter could have been granted any normal sort of clearance, SECRET or above. It would have had to have been granted without a BI, as that would have required interviewing her co-workers and acquaintances, etc., etc., and that would be impossible to keep quiet in the this situation (unless the only co-worker they interviewed was Pinch Sulzberger…?). A clearance granted by an adjudicating authority without a BI? How could you ever justify that if it ever came out??? Can’t imagine it happening, but maybe Colonel Lang has a different take?
    My take is that Judy, Judy, Judy and her endless ego chose to interpret her “special access” understanding with Rumsfeld, Feith, Bolton, whomever and whatever, as a “clearance”, but this was true only in her fantasies….?

  10. Joe McGuire says:

    Security clearance issues aside, it is indeed troubling that a NY Times reporter could be “used” by this Administration as its mouthpiece to beat the drum for WMDs. Giving her “access” really “bought” her. The “inside” info or scoops she got were, of course, simply part of building the phony story that would persuade a lot of us–me, too, unfortunately–to invade Iraq. But “laudering” them through the Times gave them a lot more credibility.

  11. Curious says:

    The best entry looking at Judy’s clearance from her writing.
    I go into this in obssessive detail in my series on Judy. But based on her portrayal of ‘Secret Squirrel’ Yankee Fan and a few others, I’m fairly convinced the sources and methods Judy is hiding are details of veracity, not security. That is, Judy has clearance to report on staged stories. Her clearance is about reporting the details Rummy wants reported and hiding the really sketchy provenance for those stories. It has almost nothing to do with a real security clearance, with trying to prevent any info that would compromise national security from being released. (Although, this is probably more and more true of security clearances in BushCo–they’re hiding their lies, not our vital truths.)
    All this doesn’t not definitively explain which side of the security clearance issue Judy comes down on. Perhaps she does have clearance, but getting it was contigent on Judy writing precisely the stories they wanted her to write, on never questioning the stories she was given. Or perhaps she doesn’t have clearance at all. When you deal entirely in fictions, why would you need clearance?
    One more thing. The nature of her embed suggests Rummy’s personal involvement here. Is it possible he gave her “clearance” without going through the normal channels of clearing someone? That is, it possible her clearance isn’t clearance at all, just Rummy’s carte blanche to circulate classified information? Fitz seems to know a bit about Judy’s clearance. I wonder if he knows how she got that clearance?

  12. Curious says:

    Latest update. (Miller is giving some weird explanation, that the clearance is really a type of NDA. Huh? Anybody understands this?)×1866039
    Miller Clarifies Security Clearance Issue
    NEW YORK — New York Times reporter Judith Miller has addressed an issue that raised eyebrows in the journalism community: her statement that she had “clearance to see secret information” while covering the invasion of Iraq.
    In a first-person piece last weekend, Miller wrote that because of that status, “I was not permitted to discuss with editors some of the more sensitive information about Iraq.”
    The statement led some to charge that the Times had allowed Miller to become compromised by the military.
    But Miller told the paper for a story published Thursday that her “clearance” was akin to the routine nondisclosure form for all reporters “embedded” with military units, which she signed when she was deployed with the 75th Exploitation Task Force. The unit’s job was to find weapons of mass destruction.,0,2007945.story?coll=sns-ap-nation-headlines

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