Judith Miller

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For other people named Judith Miller, see Judith Miller (disambiguation).
Judith Miller
Born (1948-01-02) January 2, 1948 (age 67)
New York City, New York, USA
Alma mater Ohio State University
Barnard College of Columbia University
Princeton University
Occupation Journalist, writer

Judith Miller (born January 2, 1948) is an American journalist and writer. She is formerly of the New York Times Washington bureau, where she became embroiled in controversy after her coverage of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program both before and after the 2003 invasion was discovered to have been based on faulty information, particularly those stories that were based on sourcing from the now-disgraced Ahmed Chalabi.[1][2] A number of stories she wrote while working for The New York Times were deemed to be inaccurate by her employer.[3] According to commentator Ken Silverstein, Miller's Iraq reporting "effectively ended her career as a respectable journalist."[4]

Miller was later involved in the Plame Affair, in which the status of Valerie Plame as a member of the Central Intelligence Agency became widely known. When asked to name her sources, Miller invoked reporter's privilege and refused to reveal her sources in the CIA leak. Miller retired from her job at the New York Times in November 2005. Later, she was a contributor to the Fox News Channel and a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute. She is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.[5] On December 29, 2010, numerous media outlets reported that she had signed on as a contributing writer to the conservative magazine Newsmax.[6][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in New York City to a Jewish father and an Irish Catholic mother, Judith Miller grew up in Miami and Los Angeles, where she graduated from Hollywood High School. Her father, Bill Miller, was the owner of a night club in New Jersey and later in Las Vegas.[8] Her sister Susan has a degree in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her half-brother Jimmy Miller[8] was a record producer during the late 1960s and early 1970s, working in support of the Rolling Stones, Traffic, the Spencer Davis Group and Delaney and Bonnie, among others.

Judith Miller attended Ohio State University where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. She graduated from Barnard College in 1969 and received a master's degree in public affairs from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. In 1971, while at Princeton, Miller traveled to Jerusalem to research a paper. She became fascinated with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and spent the rest of the summer traveling for the first time to Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. As a correspondent for The Progressive and National Public Radio, Miller turned her academic interest into a professional one, traveling to the region and cultivating a network of sources.[citation needed] In 1993, she married Jason Epstein, an editor and publisher.

New York Times career[edit]

During Miller's tenure at the The New York Times, she was a member of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting, for its 2001 coverage of global terrorism before and after the September 11 attacks. She and James Risen received the award and one of the cited articles appeared under her byline.[9]

Anthrax hoax victim[edit]

On October 12, 2001, Miller opened an anthrax hoax letter mailed to her New York Times office. The 2001 anthrax attacks had begun occurring in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, with anthrax-laced letters sent to ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and the New York Post, all in New York City, as well as the National Enquirer in Boca Raton, Florida. Two additional letters (with a higher grade of anthrax) were sent on October 9, 2001, to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy in Washington. Twenty-two people were infected; five died. In 2008, the government's investigation of these mailings focused on Bruce Ivins, who later committed suicide, with the investigation determining that Ivins acted alone.[10]

Miller was the only major U.S. media reporter, and the New York Times the only major U.S. media organization, to be victimized by a fake anthrax letter in the fall of 2001. Miller had reported extensively on the subject of biological threats and had co-authored, with Stephen Engelberg and William Broad, a book on bio-terrorism, Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War which was published on October 2, 2001. Miller co-authored an article on Pentagon plans to develop a more potent version of weaponized anthrax, "U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limits", published in the New York Times on September 4, 2001, weeks before the first anthrax mailings.[11] Miller also participated in a senior-level bio-terror attack simulation on Oklahoma City conducted on June 22 and June 23, 2001, called "Operation Dark Winter"; her role was media reporter/observer.

Islamic charities search leak[edit]

Shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government was considering adding the Holy Land Foundation to a list of organizations with suspected links to terrorism and was planning to search the premises of the organization. The information about the impending raid was given to Miller by a confidential source. On December 3, 2001, Miller telephoned the Holy Land Foundation for comment, and the New York Times published an article in the late edition papers and on its website that day. The next day, the government searched HLF's offices. These occurrences led to a lawsuit brought by US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales,[12] with prosecutors claiming that Miller and her colleague Philip Shenon had queried this Islamic charity, and another, in ways that made them aware of the planned searches.[13]

New York Times career: 2002–2005[edit]

At the New York Times, Miller wrote on security issues, particularly about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Many of these stories later turned out to have been based upon faulty information. On September 7, 2002, Miller and fellow New York Times reporter Michael R. Gordon reported the interception of metal tubes bound for Iraq. Her front-page story quoted unnamed "American officials" and "American intelligence experts" who said the tubes were intended to be used to enrich nuclear material, and cited unnamed "Bush administration officials" who claimed that in recent months, Iraq "stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb".[14] Miller added that

"Mr. Hussein's dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions, along with what defectors described in interviews as Iraq's push to improve and expand Baghdad's chemical and biological arsenals, have brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war."[14]

Shortly after Miller's article was published, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld all appeared on television and pointed to Miller's story as a contributory motive for going to war.[citation needed] Miller said of the controversy, "[M]y job isn't to assess the government's information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of the New York Times what the government thought about Iraq's arsenal."[15]

Miller later claimed, based on statements from the military unit she was embedded with, that WMDs had been found in Iraq.[16] This again was widely repeated in the press. "Well, I think they found something more than a smoking gun", Miller said on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. "What they've found is a silver bullet in the form of a person, an Iraqi individual, a scientist, as we've called him, who really worked on the programs, who knows them firsthand, and who has led MET Alpha people to some pretty startling conclusions."

On May 26, 2004, a week after the U.S. government apparently severed ties with Ahmed Chalabi, a Times editorial acknowledged that some of that newspaper's coverage in the run-up to the war had relied too heavily on Chalabi and other Iraqi exiles bent on regime change. It also regretted that "information that was controversial [was] allowed to stand unchallenged", however the editorial explicitly rejected "blame on individual reporters."[17]

Miller reacted angrily to criticism of her pre-war reporting. In a May 27, 2004 article in Salon, published the day after the Times mea culpa, James C. Moore quoted her: "You know what ... I was proved fucking right. That's what happened. People who disagreed with me were saying, 'There she goes again.' But I was proved fucking right." This quotation was in relation to another Miller story, wherein she indicated that trailers found in Iraq had been proven to be mobile weapons labs. However, that was later also shown to have been mistaken.[18] It was alleged later in Editor and Publisher that, while Miller's reporting "frequently does not meet published Times standards", she was not sanctioned and was given a relatively free rein because she consistently delivered frequent front page scoops for the paper by cultivating top-ranking sources.[19]

Public editor Byron Calame wrote: "Ms. Miller may still be best known for her role in a series of Times articles in 2002 and 2003 that strongly suggested Saddam Hussein already had or was acquiring an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction… Many of those articles turned out to be inaccurate ... [T]he problems facing her inside and outside the newsroom will make it difficult for her to return to the paper as a reporter."[20]

Two weeks later, Miller negotiated a private severance package with Times' publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. She contested Calame's claims and gave no ground in defense of her work, but cited difficulty in performing her job effectively after having become an integral part of the stories she was sent to cover.[21]

Refusal to disclose source[edit]

In July 2005, several months prior to her October 2005 resignation from the New York Times, Miller was jailed for contempt of court for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating a leak naming Valerie Plame as a CIA officer. While Miller never wrote about Plame, she was believed to be in possession of evidence relevant to the leak investigation. According to a subpoena, Miller met with an unnamed government official, later revealed to be I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, on July 8, 2003. Plame's CIA identity was divulged publicly in a column by conservative political commentator Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. Novak's source was revealed to have not been Libby, but Richard Armitage of the Department of State.

On July 16, 2005, The Washington Post reported that Miller could face criminal contempt charges, which could have extended her jail time six months beyond the four months then anticipated.[22] The Post also suggested that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was particularly interested in hearing Miller's version of her encounter with Libby. Filings by Fitzgerald reportedly alleged that Miller's defiance of the court constituted a crime. On September 29, 2005, after spending 85 days in jail, Miller was released following a telephone call with Libby. He had reconfirmed the release of confidentiality. Under oath, Miller was questioned by Fitzgerald before a federal grand jury the following day, September 30, 2005,[23] but was not relieved of contempt charges until after testifying again on October 12, 2005.

For her second grand jury appearance, Miller produced a notebook from a previously undisclosed meeting with Libby on June 23, 2003. This was several weeks before Wilson's New York Times editorial was published. This belied the theory that Libby was retaliating against Wilson for his Times editorial. According to Miller's notes from that earlier meeting, Libby disclosed that Joseph Wilson's wife was a CIA employee involved in her husband's trip to Niger. Miller's notebook from her July 8, 2003, meeting with Libby contains the name "Valerie Flame [sic]".[24] This reference occurred six days before Novak published Plame's name and unmasked her as a CIA operative.

Miller's grand jury account was the basis for her last article in the Times. Miller testified as a witness on January 30, 2007, at the trial of Scooter Libby, which began in January 2007. The trial ended on March 6, 2007, with Libby's conviction on four of five counts, though none of the counts had to do with actually revealing Plame's name to the media.[25] The New York Times published Miller's first-person account, "My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room", on October 16, 2005. Miller claimed she could not remember who gave her the name "Valerie Plame" but that she was sure it didn't come from Libby.[26] Armitage, who actually was the source for the leak, was never charged.

Contempt of court[edit]

On October 1, 2004, federal Judge Thomas F. Hogan found Miller in contempt of court for refusing to appear before a federal grand jury, which was investigating who had leaked to reporters the fact that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative. Miller did not write an article about the subject at the time of the leak, but others did, notably Robert Novak, spurring the investigation. Judge Hogan sentenced her to 18 months in jail, but stayed the sentence while her appeal proceeded. On February 15, 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously upheld Judge Hogan's ruling. On June 17, 2005, the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case. On July 6, 2005, Judge Hogan ordered Miller to serve her sentence at "a suitable jail within the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia". She was taken to Alexandria City Jail on July 7, 2005.[27][28]

In a separate case, Federal Judge Robert W. Sweet ruled on February 24, 2005, that Miller was not required to reveal who in the government leaked word of an impending raid to her. Patrick Fitzgerald, the same prosecutor who had had Miller jailed in the Plame case, argued that Miller's calls to groups suspected of funding terrorists had tipped them off to the raid and allowed them time to destroy evidence. Fitzgerald wanted Miller's phone records to confirm the time of the tip and determine who had leaked the information to Miller in the first place. Judge Sweet held that because Fitzgerald could not demonstrate in advance that the phone records would provide the information he sought the prosecutor's needs were outweighed by a 'reporter's privilege' to keep sources confidential. On August 1, 2006, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Judge Sweet's decision, holding 2–1 that federal prosecutors could inspect the telephone records of Miller and Philip Shenon. Judge Ralph K. Winter, Jr. wrote: "No grand jury can make an informed decision to pursue the investigation further, much less to indict or not indict, without the reporters' evidence".[29]

Prior to her jailing for civil contempt, Miller's lawyers argued that it was pointless to imprison her because she would never talk or reveal confidential sources. Under such circumstances, argued her lawyers, jail term would be "merely punitive" and would serve no purpose. Arguing that Miller should be confined to her home and could forego Internet access and cellphone use, Miller's lawyers suggested that "impairing her unrestricted ability to do her job as an investigative journalist ... would present the strictest form of coercion to her".[30] Failing that, Miller's lawyers asked that she be sent to a women's facility in Danbury, Connecticut, nearer to "Ms. Miller's 76-year-old husband", retired book publisher Jason Epstein, who lives in New York City, and whose state of health was the subject of a confidential medical report filed by Miller's attorneys. Upon being jailed, the Times reported on July 7, 2005, that Miller had purchased a cockapoo puppy to keep her husband company during her absence.[31]

On September 17, 2005, the Washington Post reported that Miller had received a "parade of prominent government and media officials" during her first 11 weeks in prison, including visits by former U.S. Republican Senator Bob Dole, NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and John R. Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.[32] After her release on September 29, 2005, Miller agreed to disclose to the grand jury the identity of her source, Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.[citation needed]

On Tuesday, January 30, 2007, Miller took the stand as a witness for the prosecution against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. Miller discussed three conversations she had had with Libby in June and July 2003, including the meeting on June 23, 2003. In her first appearance before the grand jury, Miller said she could not remember. According to the New York Times, when asked if Libby discussed Valerie Plame, Miller responded in the affirmative, "adding that Libby had said Wilson worked at the agency’s (C.I.A.) division that dealt with limiting the proliferation of unconventional weapons". The trial resulted in guilty verdicts against Libby.[33]

After The New York Times[edit]

Since leaving the New York Times, Miller has continued her work as a writer in Manhattan and has contributed several op-ed pieces to The Wall Street Journal. On May 16, 2006 she summarized her investigations on U.S. foreign policy regarding Libya's dismantling of its weapons programs in an essay spanning two days.[34]

On May 17, 2006, NavySEALs.com and MediaChannel.org published an exclusive interview with Miller in which she detailed how the attack on the Cole led her to investigate Al Qaeda and, in July 2001, to her receiving information from a top-level White House source concerning top-secret NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) about an impending Al Quaeda attack, possibly against the continental United States. Two months later, on September 11, Miller and her editor at the Times, Stephen Engelberg, both regretted not writing that story.[35]

On September 7, 2007, she was hired as an adjunct fellow of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a neo-conservative free-market think tank. Her duties included being a contributing editor for the organization's publication, City Journal. On October 20, 2008, Fox News announced that it had hired Miller.[36] As part of her Fox News duties, she often appears as a panelist on their media analysis show Fox News Watch.[citation needed]

Books by Miller[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Source of the Trouble", New York Magazine, May 21, 2005.
  2. ^ "A few months after the aluminum tubes story, a former CIA analyst explained to me how simple it had been to manipulate [Judith Miller] and her newspaper. "The White House had a perfect deal with Miller", he said. "Chalabi is providing the Bush people with the information they need to support their political objectives, and he is supplying the same material to Judy Miller. Chalabi tips her on something and then she goes to the White House, which has already heard the same thing from Chalabi, and she gets it corroborated. She also got the Pentagon to confirm things for her, which made sense, since they were working so closely with Chalabi. Too bad Judy didn't spend a little more time talking to those of us who had information that contradicted almost everything Chalabi said." Long after the fact, Miller conceded in her interview with me that she was wrong about the tubes, but not that she had made a mistake." - James Moore How Chalabi and the White House held the front page. The Guardian, May 29, 2004.
  3. ^ Franklin Foer. The Source of the Trouble. New York Magazine, May 21, 2005.
  4. ^ Silverstein, Ken (2013-08-15) Anatomy of an Al Qaeda “Conference Call”, Harper's
  5. ^ "Membership Roster". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  6. ^ Pareene, Alex (2010-12-30) "Judith Miller: From the Times to the nuts", Salon.com.
  7. ^ Hagey, Keach (2010-12-29). "Judith Miller joins Newsmax". Politico. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  8. ^ a b Gilbert Scott Markle Jimmy Miller
  9. ^ "The 2002 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Explanatory Reporting". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-03-29.  With reprints of ten 2001 works.
  10. ^ Office of Public Affairs, Department of Justice (2010-02-19). "Justice Department and FBI Announce Formal Conclusion of Investigation into 2001 Anthrax Attacks". Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  11. ^ Miller, Judith "U.S. Germ Warfare Research Pushes Treaty Limits", New York Times, September 4, 2001.
  12. ^ New York Times v. Gonzales, 459 F.3d 160 (2006).
  13. ^ A brief analysis of the decisions in New York Times v. Gonzales and Miller v. Unitesd States/Cooper v. United States is at: Ongoing confidential sources cases, accessed October 31, 2009.
  14. ^ a b Gordon, Michael R., and Miller, Judith "U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts, New York Times, September 8, 2002.
  15. ^ Michael Massing: "Now They Tell Us: the American press and Iraq", New York Review of Books, February 26, 2004.
  16. ^ Miller, Judith "Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert", New York Times, April 21, 2003.
  17. ^ the New York Times > International: The Times and Iraq: A Sample of the Coverage
  18. ^ Woodward, Bob. State of Denial. New York: Simon and Schuster, p. 210.
  19. ^ William E. Jackson, Jr. "Miller's Star Fades (Slightly) at NY Times". Editor and Publisher, October 2, 2003.
  20. ^ Calame, Byron. "The Miller Mess: Lingering Issues Among the Answers", The New York Times, October 23, 2005.
  21. ^ "Reporter at center of CIA leak retires". CNN.com. November 10, 2005. Retrieved 2006-06-26. 
  22. ^ Kurtz, Howard; Leonnig, Carol D. "Criminal Contempt Could Lengthen Reporter's Jail Stay", Washington Post, July 16, 2005, p. A06.
  23. ^ "US CIA case reporter will testify", BBC News, September 30, 2005.
  24. ^ Don Van Natta Jr., Adam Liptak, Clifford J. Levy "The Miller Case: A Notebook, a Cause, a Jail Cell and a Deal", New York Times, October 16, 2005.
  25. ^ "Reporter's Account Hurts Libby Defense", Washington Post, January 30, 2007.
  26. ^ Miller, Judith (October 16, 2005). "My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-03-29. 
  27. ^ "US reporter jailed in CIA trial", BBC News, July 6, 2005.
  28. ^ "New York Times Reporter Jailed for Keeping Source Secret", New York Times, July 6, 2005.
  29. ^ "U.S. Wins Access to Reporter Phone Records"
  30. ^ Carol D. Leonnig, "Reporters Ask Judge for Home Detention", The Washington Post, July 2, 2005, p. A02.
  31. ^ "A Reporter Jailed: Woman in the News; A Difficult Moment, Long Anticipated", New York Times.
  32. ^ Leonnig, Carol D. (September 17, 2005). "Jailed Reporter Is Distanced From News, Not Elite Visitors". Washington Post. pp. Page A01. Retrieved 2006-06-26. 
  33. ^ "Reporter Who Was Jailed Testifies in Libby Case", New York Times, January 31, 2007.
  34. ^ Judith Miller, "How Gadhafi Lost His Groove: The complex surrender of Libya's WMD", The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2006, Archived at Judith Miller's website; "Gadhafi's Leap of Faith". The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2006, Archived at Judith Miller's website.
  35. ^ Rory O'Connor and William Scott Malone, "The 9/11 Story That Got Away", AlterNet, May 17, 2006.
  36. ^ "Judith Miller Joins Fox News", Huffington Post, October 20, 2008.

External links[edit]