This Tuesday, barring any last minute cancellations, disgraced New York Times reporter Judith Miller will receive a "First Amendment Award" from the Society of Professional Journalists. It's expected that Miller will use the platform at the SPJ Convention to once again push for a "Journalist's Shield Law" at the Federal level, using her own imprisonment as an example of what can happen to "noble" reporters when they are hounded by overzealous prosecutors and aggressive agents of the government.

There's only one problem: by all accounts, including the Times' own internal investigation into the circumstances behind Miller's jailing, Judy seems to be the last person any honest journalist would want arguing their constitutional rights. To add insult to injury, the people who have done the most to shed light on l'affaire de Miller-- the participatory journalists and the bloggers-- probably wouldn't even be covered under the Federal law that Miller and the Times are so passionate in promoting.

Miller's case, in short, is an example of everything thats screwed up with the proposed shield law. Far from being a perfect example of why the law is needed, the (soon to be ex-?) Times journalist is prime evidence of everything that it does wrong.

Let's start with Miller herself. The negative personal implications stemming from the Times' recent pair of articles on the Plame affair are almost to numerous to count. Begin with Miller's previously secret "DoD Security Clearance" (a status that ex-CBS national security correspondent Bill Lynch calls "as close as one can get to government licensing of journalists .") and move onto her repuation as a "renegade reporter, much of the time answering to no one in particular, and pursuing whatever she wished.” Apparently this uncooperative attitude has extended to the Times own chronicle of the case, with Miller generally “not discussing her interactions with editors, elaborating on the written account of her grand jury testimony or allowing reporters to review her notes.” Note that, after all the sturm and drang, Miller's pleading of the “I cannot recall who told me Valerie ‘Flame’s’ name” defense seems patently patently absurd. Finally, add in the “paralysis that afflicted the editors and reporters of the Times as the case unfolded over the months” along with the dubious circumstances under which Miller finally agreed to testify and you’ve got a pretty shabby standard-bearer for the cause of press freedom and the “journalistic shield”.

All this might be considered just another Larry Flynt situation (where the dirty, compromised pornographer stands up for the Fist Amendment so political dissidents can use it too) if it wasn’t for the fact that the very shield law Miller and others are promoting might actually do more harm than good. By many accounts, the proposed law would create a “two-tier” system of journalism in which so-called “professional journalists" employed by large corporations would receive legal protection while independent, internet based journalists and bloggers would not. As Richard Lugar (R-IN) one of the bill’s sponsors, asked rhetorically, “are bloggers journalists? ... Probably not.”

The irony, of course, is overwhelming— the very individuals who behaved the most like journalists during the entire Miller debacle will be shoved off into the corner so Judy and her ilk can continue to be bought and sold by the powers that be? By far and away, the most extensive, critical, and accurate coverage of the entire Miller affair came from blogs and other small, independent press outlets—from Raw Story, Press Think, and Editor and Publisher, to Romenesko, Eschaton, the Huffington Post and The Next Hurrah. This wasn’t the first time that the bloggers pushed the big story further than the mainstream press either would or could, and it won’t be the last. The only question is whether they’ll be operating from a position of legally-enforced second class status … thanks, in part, to Judith Miller and the New York Times.