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Friday, March 14, 2014

Who is John Miller?

More on the Boston bombing mystery. Russell Baker presents the second part of his investigation of "Danny," the carjack victim who is the only witness to hear the Tsarnaev brothers confess to the bombing. In a previous installment (scroll down), Baker looked at the many contradictions in various statements attributed to Danny, as published in the media.

In part two, Baker notes that Danny has offered several different reasons for keeping his last name hidden. None of those reasons seems to hold much water. Baker also managed to speak to Eric Moskowitz of the Boston Globe, who revealed some important background information...
Within 48 hours of the carjacking, producers for the major TV networks had obtained Danny’s license plate and then somehow traced it to him—although how is unclear since it was a leased vehicle owned by a dealership. Danny declined to talk to the TV people but, unsure how to handle the media inquiries, he reached out to his former master’s adviser at Northeastern University. The adviser consulted Ralph Martin, Northeastern’s general counsel, who happened to be a former District Attorney of Suffolk County, which includes Boston.

Martin advised that if Danny was seeking fame, he should give interviews to TV. But if he wanted thoroughness, he should talk to the Globe. Danny’s academic adviser then spoke to a friend of his, an urban planner for the city of Cambridge, who had a longstanding relationship with Moskowitz (Danny’s thesis adviser knew Moskowitz, too), and the planner contacted him on the Monday after the carjacking.

That is how the sole print journalism access to the key witness in this extraordinary event was handed to a junior Globe reporter with no real investigative or crime experience, rather than to one of the veteran gumshoes who populate the Globe newsroom.
Moscowitz' brother, who knows Mandarin, was able to track Danny via a trail he had left on Chinese-language websites.

Who is Jamie Fox? In his interactions with the Globe, Danny's "handler" was criminologist James "Jamie" Fox of Northeastern University.
According to Moskowitz, some of the lack of clarity in his account of what transpired on the night of April 18 may have resulted from frequent interruptions by Professor Fox and by what seemed to him to be interview-steering by the criminologist.

As for Danny, Moskowitz described him as “guileless.” “He told me his ATM password,” he said.
Fox seems to have functioned as a sort of "firewall" between Baker and Danny.
Troubled by Fox’s role in the story, which hardly squared with what one might expect from a criminologist—whose principal concern is studying crime, not squiring mysterious witnesses—I researched his statements on the bombing story.

In this CNN video, Professor Fox, like some kind of Boston Zelig, is standing beside the only other carjacking witness, an immigrant gas station attendant to whom “Danny” ran for help. This is during an interview of the attendant by CNN’s Piers Morgan—it is not clear why Fox is standing next to this man.
In my view, Fox's role in all of this is unusual but not too controversial. However...

Who is John Miller? The most interesting "find" in Baker's latest story concerns reporter John Miller of CBS, who did get past the "Fox firewall" for an interview with Danny...
That’s the same John Miller who reported the strange and long-delayed (May 16) exclusive about how Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, grievously wounded and bleeding badly, nevertheless managed to pull himself up and scrawl a confession-cum-manifesto on the wall of the boat in which he was hiding.

That’s the same John Miller who left journalism in 2002 and spent the next eight years in government national security posts, including helping Chief William Bratton establish counterterrorism and criminal intelligence bureaus at the Los Angeles Police Department, serving as the top spokesman for the FBI, and then going to work for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees both the FBI and CIA.

Thus, John Miller has close relationships with key people at the very agency whose actions call everything into question about this story.
Baker doesn't mention the most recent developments in the John Miller story. He has left journalism once again to take a job with the NYPD. And not just any job...
CBS allowed Miller out of his contract with the network because, as Rhodes put it, "it would just be inappropriate to stand in the way" of a return to public service. Miller's exact title at the NYPD is not yet known. But he'll have a high-profile job in counterterrorism, reuniting with his former boss William Bratton, who was the commissioner of the police department in the mid-1990s and will return to that position in January.
Rhodes praised Miller for having an unmatched Rolodex of sources and said CBS has "benefited from that greatly." Among the stories Rhodes cited were the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, when Miller was frequently on television to share information he had obtained from law enforcement sources. Rhodes added, "John was the reason why we didn't go with the erroneous reports of an arrest in the Boston bombings." (A number of other news organizations, including CNN, prematurely reported an arrest had been made two days after the April explosions.)
Interesting. So what was the source for that story about an arrest...?

As you might have guessed, there's an NSA angle. These days, there's always an NSA angle.
Miller's return to the NYPD received more attention than the typical revolving door move because the process took place publicly as he came under fire for a glowing "60 Minutes" report on the National Security Agency.

The Dec. 15 piece raised questions over whether Miller -- who already twice left journalism for law enforcement and was expected to once again -- could report aggressively on the NSA. Remarkably, the lengthy "60 Minutes" report included no critics of the NSA's controversial surveillance program.

Miller, however, brushed off anyone questioning his "60 Minutes" report without taking the criticism on its merits.

"He is nothing if not confident," The Times' David Carr wrote, "dismissing his critics as ankle-biting, agenda-ridden bloggers who could not be compelled to get out of their pajamas and do actual reporting.
Apparently, acting as a P.R. flack for the folks at Fort Meade constitutes "actual reporting." If that's what passes for "actual reporting" these days, I'm happy to sink my cavity-ridden fangs into some tasty talocrural regions.

Those blogworld ankle-biters went after Miller's NSA puff piece because it carried an unmistakable Pravda perfume. Here's a choice bit of ankle-biting from Firedoglake:
Whoosh! That revolving door sure goes by quick. And each time Miller advances himself up the ladder.

Of course Miller has finally gone too for this scheme to work any longer. He is definitely not a journalist as the 60 Minutes piece made clear. So while he can advance as a government spokesman with speed and grace, no one will trust him to deliver tough and informative information and analysis on arms of state power again.
John Miller has proved rather conclusively one cannot serve two masters. The NSA piece was a long wet kiss to the agency which exercised amazing levels of control over the segment including the ability to take “time outs” and vet video. Miller proved he could be trusted by the NSA but not that he could be trusted by the public as a journalist.
According to Wikipedia
He is a member of the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Miller is an instructor at the FBI's National Executive Institute, as well as the Leadership in Counterterrorism (LinCT) course and has attended training in organizational change at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government as well as the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Isn't it decidedly odd for a journalist to be an FBI instructor? I've never heard of a precedent for that.

In a previous post, we looked at Christopher Wren, the former New York Times Moscow correspondent, whose reportage arguably helped re-stoke the Cold War in the 1970s. Wren was recruited by the CIA before he got his media assignment. There have been plenty of other spooked-up newsfolk over the years. Miller may well be the latest example of the breed.

If a Russian "journalist" drifted in and out of "public service" gigs within the intelligence infrastructure, what conclusion would we immediately reach?

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