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.
According to [former National Guard spokesman Eugene] Pomeroy, as well as an editor at the Times, Miller had helped negotiate her own embedding agreement with the Pentagon–an agreement so sensitive that, according to one Times editor, Rumsfeld himself signed off on it. Although she never fully acknowledged the specific terms of that arrangement in her articles, they were as stringent as any conditions imposed on any reporter in Iraq. "Any articles going out had to be, well, censored," Pomeroy told me. "The mission contained some highly classified elements and people, what we dubbed the 'Secret Squirrels,' and their 'sources and methods' had to be protected and a war was about to start." Before she filed her copy, it would be censored by a colonel who often read the article in his sleeping bag, clutching a small flashlight between his teeth.
No surprise at this point that Miller wouldn't divulge to her readers the price paid for her access. But then it gets even more telling:
While traveling with MET Alpha, according to Pomeroy and one other witness, she wore a military uniform. […]
Miller guarded her exclusive access with ferocity. When the Washington Post's Barton Gellman overlapped in the unit for a day, Miller instructed its members that they couldn't talk with him. According to Pomeroy, "She told people that she had clearance to be there and Bart didn't." (One other witness confirms this account.)
As any child of the Aerospace Belt can tell you, hell hath no bullshitter like a G.I. Joe wannabe with a Security Clearance. The kids in school used to call it "Engineer's Disease," or ED for short—the belief that a 5 percent advantage in Access magically translated into 100 percent Omniscience on all subjects under the sun, even (or especially) in fields wholly unrelated to the engineer's competence. Any dinner-table anecdote beginning with "The boys over at Security" would trigger automatic eye-rolling; every discussion about so-and-so's Clearance would evoke memories of schoolyard arguments between Boy Scouts over who had the biggest patches.
Fetishizing Access, and subsuming yourself under the higher authority of martial patriotism (Miller told her colleagues that she hopes to cover "the same thing I've always covered—threats to our country"), is not exactly a short-cut to the truth, and makes you particularly vulnerable to the dazzling B.S. of those with decoder rings even more powerful than your own. Viddie the poignant, fan-boy self-importance of this Miller statement:
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.
Incredible. No wonder Libby began his prison mash-note to Miller with the soon-to-be classic line:
Your reporting, and you, are missed.
I'll bet they are.