John Miller, a longtime member of NYPD top brass, retired on Friday and joined CNN as its Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst today. Miller, who most recently oversaw the NYPD’s intelligence and counterterrorism bureaus, has created his own revolving door between journalism and policing for several decades. The hiring raises questions about CNN‘s commitment to some of the basic tenets of journalism, as Miller has been a repeated source of controversy whose versions of the truth skew blue.
I’ve written before about how Miller’s revolving door prowess has been useful to the NYPD (“To Defeat Transparency, NYPD Turns to Journalist-Turned-Cop-Turned-Journalist-Turned-Cop” FAIR, 6/21/17), but it’s important to look back at Miller’s career for a full grasp of what it takes to be a master propagandist for law enforcement–a copagandist.
Miller began a career in journalism nearly 40 years ago as a reporter for the local NBC station in New York covering the Mafia. In 1994, at the behest of prolific criminalizer and two-time NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton, Miller joined the police department as its main spokesperson. As the spokesperson, Miller was part of a police effort to undermining a Black queer rape victim in 1994 by revealing to the press that police investigators believed that the woman made up the rape. The NYPD eventually apologized in 2018, a rarity, for their discrediting of that woman.
In 1995, Miller went back to network television, this time at ABC News as a correspondent whose claim to fame was interviewing Osama Bin Laden (pre-9/11) and then eventually as a co-host of the network’s then-signature program, 20/20. In 2003, Miller rejoined Bratton, but this time in Los Angeles, where Bratton had become the LAPD top cop. Miller went back to a top post overseeing intelligence and counterterrorism, developing surveillance tools for the LAPD, apparently once again parlaying the visibility he built on television into top police jobs. Miller does not appear to have had any formal law enforcement education or training prior to joining the NYPD.
After leaving the LAPD to run communications at the FBI, Miller went back to the world of media, joining yet another major network, CBS, in 2011. Miller’s murky mix of policing and journalism began to come to light in 2013 when his segment, “Inside the NSA,” was criticized for essentially cheerleading the US government’s mass spying program of American citizens. That same year, Miller announced he’d be returning to law enforcement for yet another run at the NYPD alongside–you guessed it–Bratton.
In New York, Miller took over a department that was embroiled in several controversies, including its Muslim mapping program under the now defunct NYPD Demographics Unit. The department ended the mapping program in 2014 amid multiple lawsuits and even an award winning investigative series by the Associated Press exposing the racist spying tactics of post-9/11 policing. However, at a City Council hearing earlier this year, Miller brazenly claimed that the NYPD never actually spied on Muslims–provoking widespread anger amongst Muslim leaders.
Naz Ahmad, acting director of CUNY CLEAR, which offers legal support to to Muslim New Yorkes and others targeted by government spying, described Miller’s hiring as “galling” in a statement to COPWATCH.MEDIA.
“It’s somewhat galling to see Miller claim to value objectivity in joining CNN, when just this year he denied that the NYPD sent undercovers and informants into mosques in the tri-State area to entrap individuals,” Ahmad wrote. “More than 10 years after the AP broke the story of the NYPD’s suspicionless surveillance program with extensive documentation on this very issue, Miller did not tell the truth to the New York City Council–how can he be trusted to tell the truth to millions of Americans who watch CNN?”
Miller’s move to CNN seems to follow a tradition of national and local media tendencies to turn to “experts” who are themselves little more than mouthpieces for larger systems, be it law enforcement or military. In Miller’s case, he has buttered his bread specifically as a spokesperson. Nick Encalada-Malinowski, Civil Rights Campaign Director at VOCAL-NY, a grassroots group that has long organized around racial justice, describes the role of Miller and others like him:
“Miller really is a model for a specific way that police and mainstream media intertwine to promote narratives that benefit police power at the public’s expense,” Encalada-Malinowsky told COPWATCH.MEDIA.
“It’s helpful to the police in at least two important ways: on the media side, you have a person with deep ties to the political project of policing pumping his narratives and spin into millions of homes every night, armed with the facade of objectivity granted to news personalities. On the policing side, people like Miller bring their close personal relationships with other journalists, which they can leverage for more positive coverage, to kill bad stories or simply to be a “credible” face for a Department no one should believe.”
*This story was updated to include comments from Encalada-Malinowsky.
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