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Times reporter entangled in leak case had unusual relationship with military, Iraqi group

Jason Leopold

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Embattled New York Times reporter Judith Miller acted as a “middleman” between an American military unit and the Iraqi National Congress while she was embedded with the U.S. armed forces searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in April 2003, and “took custody” of Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, one of 55 most wanted Iraqis, RAW STORY has found.

Moreover, in one of the most highly unusual arrangements between a news organization and the Department of Defense, Miller sat in on the initial debriefing of Jamal Sultan Tikriti, according to a June 25, 2003 article published in the Washington Post.

The Post article sheds some light on her unusual arrangement in obtaining a special security clearance from the Department of Defense which is now the subject of a Democratic congressional inquiry. On Monday, Reps. John Conyers and Ira Skelton, the ranking Democrats on the House Judiciary and Armed Services committees sent Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a letter demanding an explanation to Miller’s top secret security clearance, which Rumsfeld reportedly personally authorized.

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What’s interesting about the 2003 Post article is that two days before it was published and two weeks after she was contacted by a Post reporter who said he was going to call into question her reporting tactics, Miller met with I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, to discuss allegations that President Bush twisted intelligence information in his State of the Union address to win public support for the war in Iraq.

In Miller’s “tell-all” published in the Times Sunday, she said she met with Libby “on the afternoon of June 23, 2003…at the Old Executive Office Building to interview Mr. Libby, who was known to be an avid consumer of prewar intelligence assessments, which were already coming under fierce criticism.”

While it’s true that the Bush administration was criticized for relying on questionable intelligence reports prior to launching the Iraq war, it was in fact Miller and The New York Times who were coming under fire for a series of explosive articles she wrote leading up to the war claiming that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s, which many critics believe laid the groundwork for an attack, and have since turned out to be wrong.

The Post article raises an important question about her role in the outing of a covert CIA agent: was Miller, whose flawed reporting on the existence of WMD’s was scrutinized in mainstream newspapers, truly meeting with Libby in the hopes of pursuing a hot story or was she trying to get information out of him that would help restore her credibility and cover up her errors?

Consider the evidence.

“More than a half-dozen military officers said that Miller acted as a middleman between the Army unit with which she was embedded and Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, on one occasion accompanying Army officers to Chalabi's headquarters, where they took custody of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law,” the Post reported. “She also sat in on the initial debriefing of the son-in-law, these sources say.”

Miller’s intimate role with the MET Alpha nearly endangered the mission, according to several soldiers.

"This was totally out of their lane, getting involved with human intelligence," according to one military interviewed by the Post. "This woman came in with a plan. She was leading them. . . . She ended up almost hijacking the mission."

On April 21, 2003 Miller, in a handwritten note, objected to an order handed down to the MET Alpha team that said it had to withdraw to the southern Iraqi town of Talil. Miller objected in a handwritten note to two public affairs officers.

"I see no reason for me to waste time (or MET Alpha, for that matter) in Talil. . . . Request permission to stay on here with colleagues at the Palestine Hotel til MET Alpha returns or order to return is rescinded. I intend to write about this decision in the NY Times to send a successful team back home just as progress on WMD is being made."

One military officer, who says that Miller sometimes "intimidated" Army soldiers by invoking Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or Undersecretary Douglas Feith, was sharply critical of the note. "Essentially, she threatened them," the officer said, describing the threat as that "she would publish a negative story."

Originally published on Tuesday October 18, 2005.

 


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