The wider context is that Rupert Murdoch, and Richard Mellon Scaife, and other far rightwing billionaires have deeply corrupted our information environment. They are in part responsible for what happened at the NYT.Intimidated by the relentless attacks on the NYT (including threats from the likes of Ann Coulter), the NYT overcompensated by paying too little attention to where Judy Miller was getting her stories and let her play a cheerleader role for a war when they should have known better.
I spoke last year about the attack Andrew Sullivan launched in Murdoch's London Times on NYT editor Howell Raines for not cheerleading Bush's building Iraq War. Sullivan had been especially incensed that the NYT gave no credence to the Iraqi expatriates on the nuclear issue.Unfortunately, this was another case where the big lie strategy paid off.
So in this polluted information environment, in which Howell Raines's view of reality, which was perfectly correct, was constantly pilloried by powerful rightwing media as nothing short of treason, there was every incentive to give Judith Miller her head. Remember that the NYT is a commercial publication. All major newspapers were seeing their subscription base shrink. After September 11, the country had moved substantially to the right on national security issues. The Times could easily go bankrupt if it loses touch with the sentiments of the American reading public. There is a lot at stake in the Murdoch et al. assault on the NYT. In its absence, the information environment in the US would be even more rightwing...
In essence, Murdoch, Scaife and other far rightwing super-rich propagandists succeeded in maligning the NYT and in pushing it off its liberal perch even further to the Right. In trying to defend themselves from the charge of treason, Raines and Keller fell into the trap of using Miller's shoddy reporting as a rampart. In the end, it was revealed to be not a rampart but a Trojan Horse for the Right.Another egregious case is the intimidation of once relatively outspoken CBS news after the National Guard memo's fiasco. My own suspicion is that the whole thing was a Karl Rove disinformation scheme - maybe he will confess after a little water boarding in Gitmo.