note: The BEAST is extremely proud to present to you the
first advance pages from New York Times reporter Judith
Miller’s eagerly anticipated upcoming book, tentatively
titled “All the President’s Mendacity.” This excerpt, from
a chapter called “Letters from Lewis,” details Miller’s
arduous prison stay in the summer of 2005, and a series
of enigmatic messages from I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, Vice
President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff.]
my lawyer, called to tell me that Scooter’s lawyer had called.
“He’s waiving anonymity,” he said. “You can testify, but
maybe don’t be too forthcoming. He said something about
revenge. It wasn’t entirely clear.” But I knew Libby would
say that just to be nice. I decided to remain mum until
I could get clarification from him personally.
called a few days later. He asked how I was, what I was
wearing, and the usual niceties. Then he went into a long
monologue about gardening. He talked about how friends were
like green, leafy plants, and special prosecutors were like
aphids. It was interesting imagery, but I couldn’t understand
why he would make small talk at such a serious moment. I
asked Lewis if he was feeling all right. He sighed and said
he was “fine,” but his curt tone told my highly trained
reporter’s ear that something wasn’t right. My suspicions
about his state of mind were further exacerbated when Libby
went on to compare political reporters with Egyptian plovers,
or crocodile birds, which pick food from between jagged
teeth in the opened mouths of massive crocs. “On the one
hand, the birds need to eat, and the crocodile needs his
teeth cleaned, so it is a symbiotic relationship,” said
Libby. “But,” he went on, “the power balance is not even,
is it? One snap of the jaw and the bird is consumed, while
the great lizard suffers no ill effect. Do you understand?”
course I did. But what on earth it had to do with reporting,
or politics, I hadn’t the slightest. I told Scooter I thought
we should be discussing more pressing issues, like how I
should handle the special prosecutor’s subpoena. “Don’t
fuck with me, Miller!” he shouted, and hung up. His inexplicable,
violent reaction told me the stress of the investigation
was getting to him. I was on my own in figuring out how
to deal with the Grand Jury.
night, I found a horse’s severed head in my bed. The note
attached said “you know who—and you know what to say.” I
racked my brain—who would do such a thing? What did it mean?
In retrospect, I guess it was probably from Lewis. He had
a truly unique sense of humor. At the time, I knew this
was a big clue, a hint as to what I should do next. If only
I could understand it…
friends urged me to testify, especially when Matt Cooper
did, but frankly, I thought Joe Wilson was a big showoff.
Everyone else was on board with the WMDs, the “mushroom
cloud” and everything. Wilson wasn’t a team player. He was
a smartass, and nobody likes that. I wanted to protect Lewis,
even if he didn’t think I should, or couldn’t face the issue
refused to testify, choosing to do time in prison instead.
I needed a break from the daily grind anyway, and hey, let’s
face it: journalist + jail time = high profile and lucrative
day, about a month into my prison stay, I found a note tucked
under my cornbread (which was terribly dry, not nearly as
good as that which my husband makes). I got the impression
that it may have been from Libby, as it bore his signature.
“Judy,” it read, “What are you doing? Did you not get the
waiver? I thought it was pretty clear. Why are you in jail?
I feel kind of bad, after all your help, sacrificing your
reputation writing those WMD articles. Go ahead and testify.
Just…you know, ixnay on the eaklay.” As I read the note,
I again got the feeling he was trying to tell me something,
but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I decided to remain
in jail despite the strain. Clearly, it was my duty as a
couple of weeks went by. I read a gift copy of Bob Woodward’s
The Secret Man, about Mark Felt, or “Deep Throat.”
My dear friend, Ahmed Chalabi, used to call me that, because,
as he said, I “could swallow anything,” which I never really
understood. I felt a certain kinship with Bob, protecting
my source at all costs, even my freedom. Both sources were
in positions of federal power with much to lose. Felt was
exposing criminal wrongdoing in the White House, and Scooter
was exposing…Joe Wilson’s wife. Another parallel was that
Bob was making a ton of money on a hastily prepared book,
and I really felt an affinity for that course of action.
halfway through the book, another cryptic note from Libby
fell out from its pages. This one was even more confounding.
“Judy, what the hell is wrong with you? Are you a goddamn
retard? You’re just making things worse by staying in jail.
I don’t know how to say this to you in a way your tiny brain
can comprehend without incriminating myself, but I’ll try
again: Just LIE down for a while, and FORGET your troubles,
then go and testify—after all, I DIDN’T TELL YOU ABOUT PLAME,
right? Get it? Christ! –I. Lewis Libby.”
was Scooter trying to tell me, I wondered, and when would
I ever be able to leave this terrible jail cell?
days wore on. I was beginning to deteriorate. I had to make
up phony headlines to keep my mind active. “Syrian ‘Lava-Cannon’
Near Completion,” I would think to myself, “DoD Urges Swift
Preemptive Action.” “Canadian Border Within Striking Distance
of Many US Nuclear Plants: Joint Chiefs Discuss Annexation.”
It kept me going.
one day, my guard, Gertrude, notified me of a phone call.
It was Libby.
I exclaimed into the handset.
he trailed off. “Why are you doing this to me?”
what?” I asked.
thought we had an understanding. I thought you knew how
to play ball,” Libby exclaimed. He seemed to be frustrated,
perhaps preoccupied with the low approval ratings the president
was suffering under lately.
I asked. “I can play tennis, if you like, Lewis.”
laughed, but not in a pleasant way. “Goddammit, woman! You’re
taunting me, aren’t you? What is it you want? Just tell
told him the truth: “Look, I just want to get out of here
and get on with the book deal part!”
Judy. Just listen to me, and I want you to listen carefully,
all right?” I agreed. “First of all, just to make clear
how serious this is—the only reason you’re still alive is
that we can’t get to you as long as you’re in that jail.
Do you understand? We have a woman here with your face,
who has been trained to jump into your life seamlessly,
okay? Nobody would even know you were gone. She’s going
to be very upset, actually; she was quite pretty before.”
had a pretty odd sense of humor, but that was one of the
things I liked about him. Even when I laughed, he stayed
in character, telling me, “Shut up, you dumb cunt.” It reminded
me of the time he followed me from Aspen to Jackson Hole,
just to surprise me at a rodeo and tell me he could find
me “anywhere, anytime, so don’t get any bright ideas.” Lewis
was always making jokes like that. It was nice to be laughing
need to testify,” he was saying. “This story is killing
us. You just go up there and tell them you talked to me,
but I didn’t tell you that woman’s name, okay?”
woman?” I asked.
Plame! For God’s sake, what do you think this is about?”
Lewis, you did tell me—”
I didn’t, dammit! No…I…didn’t,” he averred.
was stunned. “Really? Because I could swear—”
shut up and listen. You didn’t hear it from me, okay Judy?”
who’d I hear it from?” I wondered aloud.
don’t?” I asked.
you don’t,” Libby explained.
right,” I realized. “I really don’t remember!”
you’re talking,” he said, relieved.
I said, enthused. “Because I really thought it was you!
But it wasn’t! So now I have no idea!”
I can leave?”
Lewis said. “Go. Testify. Do it. Hurry.”
was elated. I thanked Libby profusely for letting me off
the hook. He was typically unserious, saying “I’m glad we
didn’t have to kill you, Judy. You’re so useful to us.”