In the 'sixties a liberal was defined as somebody who felt sorry for Richard Nixon. Nowadays it's somebody who feels sorry for Judith Miller. Count me out. Miller is the reporter from the New York Times who would rather go to jail than reveal the name, or the name that would lead to the name of the felon who outed a CIA agent. The Times pulled out all stops in her defense in its morning editorial: Chilling Effect, and First Amendment and Protecting Her Sources. Oh, My. But from all indications this wasn't a case of a neutral source who'd be stymied from revealing further wrongdoing: the source, the original source, was the one doing wrong, and Miller his accomplice through silence. Miller acted in the same manner in her earlier reporting from Iraq for the New York Times: she chose to collaborate with Administration sources feeding her fraudulent information about nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Bob Herbert, the Designated Boy-Scout at the New York Times, has been all over the airwaves talking about Miller's integrity, calling her a "private citizen" and telling us "You cannot betray a trust." Unless it's the trust of a whole country, of course, and it's an institution, not an individual that does the betraying. What he means - what Herbert means, and the paper that employs him - is that the Times and its reporters have a constitutional right to pick and chose what's truth: a right to betray the trust of their readers. In other terms: to lie. This goes beyond omission. A priest who hears the confession of a planned crime is morally bound to turn in the criminal - there are, of course, specific rules for that within the priesthood. A shrink is duty-bound to warn potential victims of any plans of violence or abuse he may hear from a patient - there are rules about that, as well. In either case, the professional code of ethics demands that you protect the lives of others, even at the cost of career, even at cost to the institution, whether Priesthood, Analysis, the Press. Miller had no moral or professional imperative to protect her source, she had a moral and professional imperative to turn him in. As in all of her earlier career she's on the same plane as those government informers who collaborate with the people they're supposedly investigating. That's not a reporter, it's an accessory, and if she goes to jail then at least there's a slim chance that the people she's protecting, her co-conspirators, will face as much jail time as she does. Then there's the game of Moral Relativism: if the press had been following the same logic back then, then Daniel Ellsberg would have been turned in for stealing the Pentagon Papers, since that, too, was a crime. But what higher moral law would the Times end up claiming in each of these circumstances? If the Times, or if Miller, honestly believe that outing a CIA agent is as much of a moral absolute, above the mere laws of the land, as ending an unjust war, then Miller and the Times should have the guts to say so. Only in the Nietzschean half-life of Late Liberalism does being a reporter place you above responsibility. A couple weeks back the New York Times ran an article explaining that, actually, torture's okay when it helps to save innocent lives. If you follow that sick logic then Miller should be sent to Guantanamo - to save innocent lives. When Joseph Wilson, the husband of the outed CIA agent, described Judith Miller as collateral damage he meant damage caused by the activities of the Bush clique. That's only half the story. - Hoipolloi Cassidy WOID: a journal of visual language