Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Judith Miller shared some sharp criticisms against the Obama administration's "criminalization of news gathering" and the state of journalism at a Jerusalem Press Club lecture in the capital Wednesday evening.
During the lecture at the the Konrad Adenauer Conference Center, titled "Preserving Freedom of the Press" and moderated by Bloomberg News reporter Calev Ben-David, Miller did not hide her contempt for US President Barack Obama's infringement on the press's civil liberties.
"Investigative reporting is dangerous and hasn't been as bad as it is now with the Obama administratio since Watergate," she said. "Obama has the worst record of civil liberties of any president since Nixon."
Miller cited the US Justice Department's "systematic targeting" of Associated Press reporters, Fox News correspondent James Rosen and WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange by invoking the Espionage Act against them as examples of "criminalizing news gathering."
"Am I worried about what is going on in America?" she asked. "Yes. We have a president who is doing terrible things in the name of 'national security.'" A member of The New York Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize for "explanatory reporting," Miller, now a Fox News correspondent, may be most notable for her refusal to reveal her sources during the Valerie Plame Affair, when the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame was exposed, compromising national security.
Miller noted the difficulty investigative journalists face in walking the line between harming national security and doing their jobs, and cited Israeli journalists as veterans at dealing with this dilemma.
"The First Amendment is sacred, but security is more sacred, and Israeli journalists have struggled with this – to find the line between a threat to national security versus what is politically embarrassing," she said. "You guys have wrestled with this much longer than we have."
Regarding Miller's Fox News colleague James Rosen, against whom the US Department of Justice invoked the Espionage Act last month and monitored his personal emails and phone calls, Miller again lambasted the Obama administration.
In the case, a government adviser was accused of leaking information after a 2009 story by Rosen was published in which he reported that North Korea planned to respond to looming UN sanctions with another nuclear test.
Subsequent court documents filed in 2011 and made public last month show an affidavit filed by the FBI claiming there was evidence Rosen broke the law – "at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator" – by publishing his findings.
"I have particular fury over what happened to James Rosen," she said. "The Espionage Act has been used six times by Obama – he has used this act to criminalize reporting more than any other president in history and [he] gets away with it because he is a Democrat and African-American, which we're proud of."
She also criticized the Justice Department's handling of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
The department accused Assange of aiding Osama Bin Laden in planning future attacks against the United States by releasing classified information.
"For the US government to be trying to go after him is very troubling," she said. "[Assange] is a true publisher."
Meanwhile, Miller said that the reason many news organizations are closing down is due to the ubiquitous inability to create a successful digital business model that is self-sustaining and profitable.
"I'm more pessimistic than many of my colleagues who think we have more news than ever before," she said. "No, we have more gossip than ever before – and there are fewer and fewer news organizations who spend the money necessary to gather real news."
Miller continued, "I want to see an online answer to this [problem], but I haven't seen one. What are we transitioning to? Despite all this technology, papers are closing down."
Asked about the ongoing incarceration of Jonathan Pollard, Miller said that while she was not aware of all the details of the case, there was no question that a "succession of CIA and FBI directors" have made it clear that they will not release him.
"Almost every single CIA and FBI director has said they would quit if Pollard is released from [prison]," she said. "This is a succession of the angriest CIA and FBI directors I've ever seen – so he must have done something pretty terrible."
Miller retired from the Times in 2005, and apart from her work at Fox News, is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and member of the Council on Foreign Relations.