FULLERTON, Calif. — Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who was jailed for protecting a confidential source, presented an award on Oct. 15 to perhaps the most famous confidential source — the man known as "Deep Throat" whose revelations led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon.
The award presented by the California First Amendment Coalition was accepted by the grandson of former FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt because the 92-year-old could not make the trip.
Miller lauded Felt as a courageous man who helped Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the secrets of the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon's resignation.
"Without Mark Felt there would have been none of the revelations that showed what began as a third-rate burglary was really a story of corruption and malfeasance," Miller said. Woodward and Bernstein refused to identify "Deep Throat" until after Felt revealed it himself this year.
In remarks dealing with her own case, Miller said that she would still be behind bars if her source, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, had not personally contacted her in prison and given her permission to testify.
"I am free today only because of a federal prosecutor's agreement to limit his questions to me and because my once-confidential source wrote me a letter and called me in jail to say he really, really wanted me to testify," Miller said.
Her lawyer Floyd Abrams, the keynote speaker at the conference at California State University, Fullerton, said Libby had earlier signed a waiver form but Abrams and Miller had suspicions that such forms could be challenged as being coerced.
A journalist should decide to break a confidence only when "the journalist is satisfied that this is a deeply personal decision by the source," Abrams said.
Miller never wrote a story about Plame, but she was jailed for civil contempt of court for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating the Bush administration's disclosure of Plame's identity.
In her remarks, Miller urged the adoption of a federal shield law to provide reporters protection from being forced to reveal confidential sources.
"I hope that other journalists will not have to make the choice that I did," she said.
Felt's grandson, Nick Jones, said he saw his grandfather as a figure comparable to Batman, "One of those crimefighters that come and go in the night."
"It's not about what he is underneath, but what he did," Jones said.