Woman of Mass Destruction
By MAUREEN DOWD
York Times" -- -- I've always liked Judy Miller. I
have often wondered what Waugh or Thackeray would have made of the
Fourth Estate's Becky Sharp.
The traits she has that drive many reporters at The Times crazy -
her tropism toward powerful men, her frantic intensity and her
peculiar mixture of hard work and hauteur - have never bothered me.
I enjoy operatic types.
Once when I was covering the first Bush White House, I was in The
Times's seat in the crowded White House press room, listening to an
administration official's background briefing. Judy had moved on
from her tempestuous tenure as a Washington editor to be a reporter
based in New York, but she showed up at this national security
At first she leaned against the wall near where I was sitting, but I
noticed that she seemed agitated about something. Midway through the
briefing, she came over and whispered to me, "I think I should be
sitting in the Times seat."
It was such an outrageous move, I could only laugh. I got up and
stood in the back of the room, while Judy claimed what she felt was
her rightful power perch.
She never knew when to quit. That was her talent and her flaw.
Sorely in need of a tight editorial leash, she was kept on no leash
at all, and that has hurt this paper and its trust with readers. She
more than earned her sobriquet "Miss Run Amok."
Judy's stories about W.M.D. fit too perfectly with the White House's
case for war. She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was
conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on
Iraq, and I worried that she was playing a leading role in the
dangerous echo chamber that Senator Bob Graham, now retired, dubbed
"incestuous amplification." Using Iraqi defectors and exiles, Mr.
Chalabi planted bogus stories with Judy and other credulous
Even last April, when I wrote a column critical of Mr. Chalabi, she
fired off e-mail to me defending him.
When Bill Keller became executive editor in the summer of 2003, he
barred Judy from covering Iraq and W.M.D. issues. But he
acknowledged in The Times's Sunday story about Judy's role in the
Plame leak case that she had kept "drifting" back. Why did nobody
stop this drift?
Judy admitted in the story that she "got it totally wrong" about
W.M.D. "If your sources are wrong," she said, "you are wrong." But
investigative reporting is not stenography.
The Times's story and Judy's own first-person account had the
unfortunate effect of raising more questions. As Bill said yesterday
in an e-mail note to the staff, Judy seemed to have "misled" the
Washington bureau chief, Phil Taubman, about the extent of her
involvement in the Valerie Plame leak case.
She casually revealed that she had agreed to identify her source,
Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, as a "former Hill
staffer" because he had once worked on Capitol Hill. The implication
was that this bit of deception was a common practice for reporters.
She said that she had wanted to write about the Wilson-Plame matter,
but that her editor would not allow it. But Managing Editor Jill
Abramson, then the Washington bureau chief, denied this, saying that
Judy had never broached the subject with her.
It also doesn't seem credible that Judy wouldn't remember a Marvel
comics name like "Valerie Flame." Nor does it seem credible that she
doesn't know how the name got into her notebook and that, as she
wrote, she "did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby."
An Associated Press story yesterday reported that Judy had coughed
up the details of an earlier meeting with Mr. Libby only after
prosecutors confronted her with a visitor log showing that she had
met with him on June 23, 2003. This cagey confusion is what makes
people wonder whether her stint in the Alexandria jail was in part a
career rehabilitation project.
Judy refused to answer a lot of questions put to her by Times
reporters, or show the notes that she shared with the grand jury. I
admire Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller for aggressively
backing reporters in the cross hairs of a prosecutor. But before
turning Judy's case into a First Amendment battle, they should have
nailed her to a chair and extracted the entire story of her
Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to
return to the newsroom, hoping to cover "the same thing I've always
covered - threats to our country." If that were to happen, the
institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.
Copyright: New York Times
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)