Judith Miller Defends Her Reporting at the 'Times'

Judith Miller.

Judith Miller. hide caption

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Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller says she disagrees with criticism of her reporting on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. She maintains that her sources got their facts wrong, and denies that her stories were improperly vetted.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Again, reporter Judith Miller was with The New York Times, which published stories using Ahmed Chalabi as a source. I ask her about criticism of her work.

Ms. JUDITH MILLER (Former New York Times Reporter): If your sources are wrong, you're going to be wrong. You do the best you can to vet the information, and I was wrong. Some of those stories were wrong because they were based on faulty intelligence.

MONTAGNE: The New York Times has an editor's note that itself says that reporting was not rigorous and overly credulous.

Ms. MILLER: What are editors for? You know, I disagree with certain conclusions of the editor's note. I think the editors who were in charge of the WMD reporting and of the other prewar intelligence had left the paper by the time that editor's note appeared. It was the new management that came in and made a determination, on the basis of what, I don't know, that there was insufficient vetting and editing of these stories.

MONTAGNE: Are you disagreeing with The New York Times that your reporting was...

Ms. MILLER: Yes, yes.

MONTAGNE: ...inadequate?

Ms. MILLER: Yes, I am. It was the best that I could do at the time. I disagree not with the desire to set the record straight. That was a good thing to do. But I don't think you do that by just saying we were wrong and by chest beating. You do it by going out and doing more journalism.

MONTAGNE: You were a central figure in that CIA leak probe. You testified to the grand jury that you believed you did not first hear Valerie Plame's name from Lewis Libby. Do you now have a better idea who gave you that name in the first place?

Ms. MILLER: First of all, I'm not going to talk about anything connected with the case itself. I can talk to you about what I...

MONTAGNE: You did, though, write about...

Ms. MILLER: I can tell--tell...

MONTAGNE: ...it in The New York Times.

Ms. MILLER: I can talk to you about what I've written. I just don't remember who specifically I spoke to other than my conversations with Mr. Libby, because those happen to be the ones that were in my notebook. The other references to Valerie Plame in my notebook were floating. They are not connected to any other interview.

MONTAGNE: In your reporting of it, you agreed to identify Lewis Libby as a former Hill staffer at the time...

Ms. MILLER: No, I did not. I agreed to listen to the information in that way, and that's all I agreed to do.

MONTAGNE: How do you mean, for the average person, what does that mean, `listen to it in that way'?

Ms. MILLER: What it means is that I agreed to listen to Mr. Libby's information on the basis of his attribution as a former Hill staffer. It is very common in Washington to hear information on the basis of one attribution and then to go back to that source if you're going to use the information and say, `You know, this attribution really won't fly. Let's come up with something that more accurately reflects your job and what you do.' That's done with every...

MONTAGNE: And does that work? Are you saying you do that frequently, make an agreement to hear information under one...

Ms. MILLER: No, I did not say I do it. I said it is often done in Washington, especially in the national security area.

MONTAGNE: But it does suggest a coziness with sources.

Ms. MILLER: I am not going to--Renee, I am not going to argue with you about this. I never agreed to identify Mr. Libby in print in that way in one of my stories.

MONTAGNE: Just one last question: Why do you think that the people who are angry with you, including some of your quite well-known colleagues, are so angry with you? Maureen Dowd, who's a Times OP-ED columnist--Let me just quote her--she wrote that your going to jail was in part a career rehabilitation project designed to get people's attention off your reporting on weapons of mass destruction.

Ms. MILLER: Anyone who asserts that knows nothing about jail, nothing about me. It was insulting, and it was painful, and it was untrue.

MONTAGNE: Judith Miller, thanks for talking with us.

Ms. MILLER: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Reporter Judith Miller spoke to us after announcing her retirement from The New York Times. We contacted The New York Times about some of the charges Judith Miller made. A spokeswoman for the paper declined to comment.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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