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Missing Nukes? It’s Miller Time

Mike Burke Jul 4, 2003

“Journalists need to draw conclusions about whether journalistic objectivity was compromised during the war; the military needs to consider whether the strain of taking care of us, and protecting us, and giving us dangerous information was an undue burden on the military. We all need to debate whether the country’s interests were best served by this arrangement.”

Those were the words of New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Judith Miller speaking May 20 at the graduation ceremonies at Barnard College in New York.

Miller is an unlikely choice to lecture on journalistic objectivity.

According to a June 25 piece in the Washington Post, Miller is facing intense scrutiny from within the military for her role as an embedded reporter in Iraq.
Post media critic Howard Kurtz talked to six unnamed officers who were part of the top secret Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha. Miller was embedded with this team that searched (unsuccessfully) for weapons of mass destruction.

Among their observations:

• The team became the “Judith Miller team” because of the role Miller would play. When the Pentagon considered pulling the unit out of an Iraqi town, Miller protested the decision. She complained to a two-star general and threatened to write negative articles in the Times. The decision to withdraw was soon rescinded. One officer said: “She ended up almost hijacking the mission.”

• Miller acted as the main conduit between the team and Ahmed Chalabi, the controversial leader of the Iraqi National Congress. Miller passed on intelligence from Chalabi to the military to help capture wanted Iraqis.

• Miller also grew very close to the head of the unit, Chief Warrant Officer Richard L. Gonzales. When Gonzales was promoted at a ceremony in Baghdad, it was Miller who pinned his new rank on to his uniform. Gonzales also publicly thanked Miller for her contributions.

Then there is Miller’s questionable reporting. Recent Miller headlines include: “U.S. Analysts Link Iraq Labs to Germ Arms,” “U.S. Experts Find Radioactive Material in Iraq” and “U.S.-led Forces Occupy Baghdad Complex Filled With Chemical Agents.” None of the stories turned out to be true.

And prior to the war she authored several pieces that helped form the Bush administration’s argument for war. Among them was an article that charged Iraq was acquiring aluminum tubes destined for a nuclear weapons program. The story, you guessed it, turned out not to be true.