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Judith Miller (journalist)

Judith Miller (born January 2, 1948), is an American journalist. Miller, based in Washington D.C., was a prominent New York Times reporter with access to top U.S. government officials. Her coverage of these officials, especially regarding the Bush administration’s conclusions about Iraq’s alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Program and her involvement in the Plame Affair, made her a conspicuous media personality. The work that Miller and Michael Gordon did in presenting the case for WMDs has been proven false. The New York Times apologized publicly for their poor reporting. Ms. Miller lost her job over these reporting blunders though Mr. Gordon has remained a reporter for the New York Times. Miller announced her "retirement" from The New York Times on November 9, 2005.

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 covert 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 published an Op-Ed in the Times criticizing the Bush administration for "twisting" intelligence to justify war in Iraq. (Plame's CIA identity was revealed 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 after a telephone call with Libby. He had reaffirmed a release of confidentiality that he had given her a year earlier and that she had already known about. Under oath, Miller was questioned by Patrick Fitzgerald before a federal grand jury the following day, September 30th, 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 having invoked First Amendment journalistic principles in going to jail, Miller was widely derided for saying that she could not remember who gave her the name "Valerie Plame" (presumably a key fact in the case) 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 7th, 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.


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 a Las Vegas entertainment icon. Her sister, Susan, has a degree in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her late brother was famed Rolling Stones record producer Jimmy Miller; he was also the writer of the lyrics to the Spencer Davis Group song "I'm a Man". Judy attended Ohio State University where she was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and 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, she turned her academic interest into a professional one, traveling to the region and cultivating a network of highly placed sources.

She was married in 1993 to Jason Epstein.

New York Times Career: 1977-2002

Miller started at the Washington bureau of the New York Times in 1977, part of a new intake prodded in part by the sting of the Times losing the Watergate story to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. She and her boyfriend Steven Rattner, also a Times reporter, became close friends of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., the son of the then-publisher of the Times, whose first job at the Times, starting in 1978, was also as a reporter of the Washington bureau. For several summers, Miller and Rattner shared a weekend house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with Sulzberger and his wife, Gail. (Sulzberger would become publisher of the Times in 1992 in his own right.)

In 1983, the Times put her Middle East experience to use by installing her as its Cairo bureau chief, the first woman in that position. The bureau was responsible for covering the Arab world, allowing her to range from Tripoli to Damascus.

In 1987-88, she returned to Washington as the Washington bureau's news editor and deputy bureau chief. In October 1990, Miller was named special correspondent to the Persian Gulf crisis, and after that, the Times' Sunday Magazine's special correspondent. In the mid-1990s, she was the Times's deputy media editor, responsible to Martin Arnold.

In early 2002, Miller shared in a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting, awarded to the New York Times staff for their work profiling "the global terrorism network and the threats it posed."

Anthrax hoax victim

On October 12, 2001, Judith 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 sickened; five died.

In 2008, as the government's investigation of these mailings had come to center on Bruce Ivins, Mr. Ivins committed suicide. The official view is that Mr. Ivins acted alone. Both assertions, of his guilt, and of its solitary nature, have drawn skeptics.

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 recently co-authored a book on bio-terrorism, Germs: 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.

Leaked information concerning the search of Islamic charities

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 disclosure of this information by a government agent could constitute a violation of criminal law, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 793(d). The information about the impending search was given to Miller by a confidential source. On December 3, 2001, Miller telephoned the Holy Land Foundation for comment before the search took place. 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 Patrick Fitzgerald, New York Times v. Gonzales, 459 F.3d 160 (2006).

New York Times career: 2002-2005

Miller was criticized for her reporting on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). On September 7, 2002, Miller and 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 had "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 did not 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 partial basis for going to war. Subsequent analyses by various agencies all concluded that there was no way the tubes could have been used for uranium-enrichment centrifuges. 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 to independently assess information, question sources and 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 story also 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," she offered angrily. "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 .

Post-The New York Times

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, and posted/published an exclusive interview with Miller in which she told the details of 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. But 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 August 18, 2007, Miller appeared on Plum TV in the Hamptons to discuss her opposition to a plan to build a CVS Pharmacy in Sag Harbor.

On September 7, 2007, she was hired as an adjunct fellow of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative free-market think tank. Her duties will also include being a contributing editor for the organization's publication, City Journal.

Contempt of court

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 covert CIA operative. Miller did not write an article about the subject at the time of the leak, but others did (most 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 27, 2005 the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

According to sources reported to have firsthand knowledge Karl Rove had asserted in an interview with the FBI that he had learned the identity of Plame from a reporter.

On July 6, 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 New York Times reported (on July 7, 2005) that Miller had purchased a cockapoo puppy to keep her husband company during her absence. Just three weeks into her jail term, The New York Sun reported that Epstein was aboard a Mediterranean cruise with celebrities J. K. Rowling and Isabella Rossellini.

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. Some have suggested that Bolton, who had access to classified State Department documents identifying Valerie Plame as a covert CIA operative, may have passed sensitive information to Miller, which Miller in turn passed on to the White House.

Prison release

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. Miller and Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, have not disclosed to the New York Times Miller's role in covering the Plame story.

Secondary case

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. However, 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.

The Federal Appeals Court in New York on on August 1, 2006 in a 2-to-1 decision ruled that federal prosecutors may 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,”

Journalist shield laws have been enacted in most states, but not at the federal level. These state laws vary widely but generally do not provide absolute protection, and journalists may still be compelled to testify if they have been witness to a crime or if there is no other way for the court to obtain the evidence.

Pop culture

Her case will be turned into a movie titled Nothing but the Truth, with Kate Beckinsale playing Miller.

Judith Miller appeared on the February 13, 2008 episode of The Colbert Report posing as one as his writers. Other "joke" writers were Tiki Barber, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Kevin Bacon, and Mr. Met.

Media commentary

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 the 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 "[i]t's going to be very interesting to see whether [Miller's] problem is a First Amendment [problem] — i.e., I want to protect a source — or a Fifth Amendment [problem] — 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.

Testimony at the Libby Trial

On Tuesday January 30th 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 Miller said she could not remember during her first appearance in front of the Grand Jury. According to the New York Times when asked if Libby discussed Valerie Plame, Miller responded in the affirmative, "adding that Mr. Libby had said Ms. 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 for Mr. Libby.


  • One, by One, by One: Facing the Holocaust, Simon & Schuster (1990) ISBN 0-671-64472-6
  • Saddam Hussein & the Crisis in the Gulf (with Laurie Mylroie) Random House USA Inc (1990) ISBN 0-09-989860-8
  • Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War (with William Broad and Stephen Engelberg) Simon & Schuster (2001) ISBN 0-684-87158-0
  • ''God Has Ninety Nine Names: Reporting from a Militant Middle East", Simon & Schuster (1997) ISBN 0684832283


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