Judy Miller and Michael Massing Face Off

By: E&P Staff

Michael Massing’s Dec. 15, 2005, article in The New York Review of Books, titled “The Press: The Enemy Within,” has triggered an angry response from one reporter mentioned in it, Judith Miller. This elicited a strong reaction from Massing, both published in the Feb. 9 edition of the publication.

Miller, who left The New York Times several weeks ago after a bitter falling out after emerging from jail and testifying in the Plame/CIA leak case, complains that if Massing “were himself a responsible journalist, he would have checked Bill Keller’s misstatements before repeating them.”

She disputes the complaint by Keller, the Times’ executive editor, that he had not received a “thorough debriefing” about her part in the Plame/CIA leak case, noting several meetings on the matter. “If Keller was not ‘thoroughly’ briefed at these meetings, the fault is his, not mine,” she observes.

Miller then charges that Massing also failed to note that Keller eventually took back his use of word in describing her “entanglement” with Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and that he had “grudgingly” withdrawn his accusation that she had misled her editor. She also challenges the view that she did not acknowledge that her WMD stories on Iraq were wrong until Oct. 16, 2005.

“Massing should also have been skeptical about Keller’s claim that I kept ‘drifting back’ into national security reporting,” she adds. “Times reporters don’t drift. It was Keller himself who approved my assignment to cover the Oil-for-Food scandal with its links to Iraq and weapons which I covered in nearly fifty articles. I also covered the NYPD counterterrorism effort, again, with the blessing of the Times.”

From Massing’s reply:

“Judith Miller’s letter leaves the impression that my entire article was devoted to her. In fact, she was the subject of a single paragraph; her own letter is twice as long. …

“Ken Auletta, in an article in the December 19, 2005, issue of The New Yorker, cites Miller’s own lawyer, Robert Bennett, as saying that he was ‘astonished’ that Keller and Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. had not inspected Miller’s notebook from her interview with Lewis Libby before deciding to resist the Patrick Fitzgerald subpoena. ‘How could the Times have embarked on this venture without knowing all the facts?’ Bennett is quoted as saying. If Miller has a complaint on this point, it’s with Keller, not me.

“Auletta also asked Keller about his claim that Miller kept drifting back on her own into the national security realm. Keller described an extraordinary call he received from Miller in 2004 in which she said she was in the house of Iraqi exile Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, who had been a source for one of Miller’s ‘discredited WMD stories,’ as Keller put it. The man was about to be deported and Miller wanted to write about it. Astonished, Keller told her to leave the man’s house. This, he told Auletta, was a case of someone ?who was way too invested in her sources.’

“Miller’s oft-repeated defense that she was wrong on WMD ‘because my sources were wrong’ ignores the fact that it’s a key part of a journalist’s job to assess the credibility of those sources.”

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