“Daisy Miller” is a story about American Exceptionalism; about the banal and tawdry tragedy that comes of having faith in it; about Daisy's (the lawyer Giovanelli's “new found land”) tragic flaw - that she is unaware of how others perceive her, or she doesn't care; or about ambiguities, or seeing things. It can be made to speak volumes about the power of perception, as about what Tayyab Mahmoud has called “[a]doption and deployment of identity.” Or about the seductive power of fictions of specifically national identity: for James critic Leslie Fiedler, “the American Girl is innocent by definition, mythically innocent; and her purity depends upon nothing she says or does....”
A contemporary American anti/heroine, Judith Miller, is likewise figured as interpretable: did she need a “freely given” “personal” waiver of confidentiality to identify her source, and when did she get one; was she a “good, honorable principled reporter” or “A Woman of Mass Destruction”; and what did New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller's accusation of an “entanglement” with “Scooter” Libby connote?
This essay takes the intrigues generated around “the Miller Girls” as a guide to reading the stories told by, surrounding, excised from, and immanent in the 2005 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in In re Grand Jury Subpoena, Judith Miller, and explores some fictions of American Exceptionalism cultivated both by “common law constitutionalism,” and by a Federal judiciary laying down the law in the shadows cast by the “War on Terror” and the jurisdictions of expatriation.
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