Monday, October 17, 2005

Miller's Security Clearance

In her New York Times "memoirs" Judith Miller mentioned in an off-hand way that she had government security clearance:

In my grand jury testimony, Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly turned to the subject of how Mr. Libby handled classified information with me. He asked, for example, whether I had discussed my security status with Mr. Libby. During 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.
Mr. Fitzgerald asked if I had discussed classified information with Mr. Libby. I said I believed so, but could not be sure. He asked how Mr. Libby treated classified information. I said, Very carefully.

This has caused some consternation in the blogosphere, because most of us can't quite imagine why journalists would have security clearance and what such a clearance would mean. It's possible, of course, that it is just a formality caused by the "embedding" of journalists in Iraq, but perhaps not. An e-mail I received from John Conyers' office shows that at least some politicians are concerned about this, too:

The Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld


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."1 She also noted she was not certain whether her clearance was in existence at the time she met with Mr. Libby.2

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?

II. 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?

III. 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.

IV. 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?

V. 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).

1Judith Miller, My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room, N.Y. Times, Oct. 16, 2005, at A31.


The letter is signed by John Conyers and Ike Skelton.