Judith Miller (born January 2, 1948) is a Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist, formerly of the New York Times in Washington D.C. Her coverage of Iraq's alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) program both before and after the 2003 invasion has garnered much controversy. Her involvement in the disclosure of the identity of a CIA officer, Valerie Plame, also made her a high-profile media personality. She spent three months in jail for claiming reporter's privilege and refusing to reveal her sources in the CIA leak. Miller retired from her job at the New York Times in November 2005. As of October, 2008 she is a contributor to the Fox News Channel and a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute think-tank.
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 famous night club in New Jersey and later in Las Vegas. Her sister Susan has a degree in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her half-brother was Rolling Stones record producer Jimmy Miller; he was also the writer of the lyrics to the Spencer Davis Group song "I'm a Man".
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 highly placed sources.
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, as the government's investigation of these mailings focused on Bruce Ivins, Ivins committed suicide. The official view is that Ivins acted alone.
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, Biological Weapons and America's Secret War which had been published on October 2, 2001. Miller also 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. 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
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, 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.
"[T]he very qualities that endeared Miller to her editors at the New York Times...her ambition, her aggressiveness, her cultivation of sources by any means necessary, her hunger to be first...were the same ones that allowed her to get the WMD story so wrong."
Miller was criticized for her reporting on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. 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".
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."
Although Miller conceded that some intelligence experts found the information on Iraq's weapons programs "spotty", she didn't report specific and detailed objections, including a report filed with the US government more than a year before Miller's article appeared by retired Oak Ridge National Laboratory physicist, Houston G. Wood III, who concluded that the tubes were not meant for centrifuges.
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. 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." Some have criticized this position, believing that a crucial function of a journalist is independently to assess information, to question sources, and to analyze information before reporting it.
Miller would later claim, based only on second-hand statements from the military unit she was embedded with, that WMDs had been found in Iraq. 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." This turned out to be false.
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". While the editorial rejected "blame on individual reporters", others noted that ten of the twelve flawed stories discussed had been written or co-written by Miller.
Miller has 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 originally in relation to another Miller story, wherein she indicated that trailers found in Iraq had been proven to be mobile weapons labs. That too was later shown to be untrue. It was alleged later in Editor and Publisher that, while Miller's reporting "frequently does not meet published Times standards", she was not sanctioned (as writers like Jayson Blair were) and was given a freer rein than other reporters because she consistently delivered frequent front page scoops for the paper by cultivating top-ranking sources.
On November 11, 2004, the Times published an obituary for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat written by Miller. Critics say it contained a number of factual errors with regard to historical context.
Miller announced her retirement from the New York Times on November 9, 2005, citing among other reasons difficulty in performing her job effectively after having become an integral part of the stories she was sent to cover. The announcement may not have been voluntary — her journalism had come under intense criticism with accusations that she had become a shill for the Bush administration. This criticism generally followed the line that her reporting of cherry-picked intelligence favorable to the administration's pro-war positions prior to the Iraq war reflected an uncomfortable "entanglement" with administration officials.
In July 2005, 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 agent. Miller did not write about Plame, but was reportedly 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, two days after former ambassador Joseph Wilson (the husband of Plame) published an Op-Ed in the Times criticizing the Bush administration for "twisting" intelligence to justify war in Iraq. Plame's CIA identity was divulged publicly in a column by conservative political commentator Robert Novak on July 14, 2003.
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. The Post also suggested that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was particularly interested in hearing Miller's version of her encounter with Libby. While Libby signed a waiver allowing journalists to testify about their conversations on this subject, Miller had reportedly refused to accept its validity on the grounds that it was "coerced".
Filings by Patrick Fitzgerald 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 which he had given her a year earlier, and which she already knew about. Under oath, Miller was questioned by Patrick Fitzgerald before a federal grand jury the following day, September 30, 2005 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, several weeks before Wilson's New York Times editorial was published. 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]". This reference occurred six days before Novak published Plame's name and unmasked her as a CIA operative.
The New York Times published Miller's first-person account, "My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room", on October 16, 2005. After the First Amendment claim, she was widely derided for saying that she could not remember who gave her the name "Valerie Plame" but that she was sure it didn't come from Libby. Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer testified, for example, that he was told Plame's name and CIA identity by Libby at lunch on July 7, 2003, one day before Libby's breakfast meeting with Miller. Miller's grand jury account was her last article in the New York Times, which negotiated a private severance package shortly afterwards. Miller testified as a witness on January 30, 2007 at the trial of "Scooter" Libby, which began in January 2007 and ended with Libby's conviction on four of five counts on March 6, 2007.
Libby's sentence was subsequently commuted by President George W. Bush.
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.
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 spurred her reporting on Al Qaeda and led her, in July 2001, to a still-anonymous top-level White House source, who shared top-secret NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) concerning an even bigger impending Al Qaeda attack, perhaps to be visited on the continental United States. Ultimately, however, Miller never wrote that story. Two months later, on September 11, Miller and her editor at the Times, Stephen Engelberg, another Pulitzer Prize winner, both remembered and regretted the story they "didn't do".
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 will include being a contributing editor for the organization's publication, City Journal. On October 20, 2008 Fox News announced that it had hired Miller. As part of her Fox News duties, she often appears as a panelist on their media analysis show Fox News Watch.
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.
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". 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.
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.
In a separate case, Federal Judge Robert 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 Miller jailed in the Plame case, had 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".
Her case inspired a movie titled Nothing But the Truth, with Kate Beckinsale playing a journalist who refuses to disclose her confidential source to the government. In the January 5, 2010 episode of The Good Wife prosecuters cite Miller's contempt case in an attempt to convince a judge to compel a TV commentator to reveal his sources. But the defense attorneys ask the judge to uphold the Illinois Shield Law, which he does.
Miller appeared on the February 13, 2008 episode of The Colbert Report posing as one of his writers. Other pretended writers were Tiki Barber, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Kevin Bacon, and Mr. Met.
Miller has also been cited as the basis of the character Lawrie Dayne, a US newspaper reporter, in the 2010 film Green Zone about the failure of US forces to find WMDs following the invasion of Iraq.
Miller has also been characterized as a possible co-conspirator with the Bush Administration in the attempt to discredit former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who openly questioned the intelligence used to justify the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Columnist Margaret Kimberly wrote that Miller "isn't protecting a whistle blower. She is protecting someone who retaliated against a whistle blower". Predicting in an August 8, 2005 interview with radio host Don Imus that other employees of the New York Times would soon be subpoenaed by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, James Carville speculated that it was "going to be very interesting to see whether [Miller's] problem is a first amendment [one] ... i.e., "I want to protect a source", or a fifth amendment [one] ... "I was out spreading this stuff, too"".
In the days since Miller's release from prison and her waiver from a promise of confidentiality from her source, media observers have criticized Miller and the New York Times for not publishing her role in the Plame-Wilson leak, not even to explain why the full story cannot now be revealed. The lawyer for Scooter Libby told the media that Miller was advised over a year ago that she could testify about her conversations with Libby. One columnist has reported that Miller has a pending million-dollar book deal on the Plame leak story.
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.