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July 6, 2005

Will Judith Miller Blog From Prison?

New York Times reporter Judith Miller is going to jail after refusing to divulge sources for a story she worked on, but did not publish, about former CIA agent Valerie Plame. Shortly before she was sentenced, Miller helped to launch Judithmiller.org, a website about her work and her current troubles. Gelf spoke with Joshua Tanzer, the site's webmaster, about the website and its future now that its namesake will be incarcerated.

Tanzer first met the reporter after she gave a speech last year about the first amendment to a church congregation in New York. Moved by Miller's speech, he approached her afterward and asked if he could do anything to help out her cause. Tanzer suggested a website as a good way to organize news and information about Miller's plight, and after Miller cleared the idea with her lawyers and those at the New York Times last fall, the two began to work together on the site.

"It's almost a black-and-white issue," Tanzer tells Gelf. "We expect confidentiality between lawyers and clients, priests and their parishioners, and doctors and clients, and those people don't even have their own amendment."

"I've been a reporter and an editor for various newspapers over the last two decades and this is always in the background—even if you had to go to jail, would you reveal your sources?" Tanzer says. "That's a commitment that you take on when you first start." Tanzer works on the site pro bono, and says he decided to get involved with Miller, as opposed to Time reporter Matthew Cooper, simply because Miller was located in New York.

Tanzer thought a website would be a good way to organize news and information about Miller's plight. Launched on June 27, the site is currently monitored by Tanzer and UC Berkeley Journalism School student Aaron Selverston. Tanzer—who hasn't heard from Miller since she was sentenced—also hopes that she decides to use the site to blog from prison. "I hope we'll hear from her once she's in jail," he says. "My first hope is that we'll have news from Judy directly. But we'll also round up the news about her when she's away, and we'll give people information on how to support federal shield law."

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