Judy Miller's indefinite wait

Wearing a jumpsuit and working in the prison laundry, the most famous woman prisoner since Martha Stewart sticks to her principles and waits to see what comes next.

New York Times reporter Judith Miller has already served more than 12 weeks, cited for contempt for refusing to cooperate with the investigation of the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA undercover officer.

For a half-hour a day, in 10-minute segments, Ms. Miller is allowed to receive visitors.

The Washington Post calculates that there have been 99 so far.

They form an eclectic group: names like Robert Dole, the former Republican senator from Kansas, and current Senators Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania and Chris Dodd (D) of Connecticut, who are promoting a federal shield law to protect reporters. New York Times executives, and William Safire, retired columnist. Former White House adviser Richard Clarke and, surprisingly, one member of the incumbent administration - UN Ambassador John Bolton. Through a spokesperson, Mr. Bolton said that visiting Ms. Miller had nothing to do with his job.

Miller had at times reported on Bolton's activities, including printing advance word of his testimony on Syria to a House committee in September 2003.

Presumably the visitors all bring messages of support and solace. What they cannot bring is any idea of how long Miller's confinement will last.

Normally a citation for civil contempt runs out with the grand jury, which in this case would be Oct. 28. But the prosecutor can ask to have the term extended, or he can charge criminal contempt, which would involve a sentencing procedure.

All along, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and district court Judge Thomas Hogan have indicated a willingness to get very, very tough with a woman who asserts a principle they do not recognize.

It is still hard to say when and how this will end.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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