WEB UPDATE: Former NYT reporter Miller: removing Hussein was a ‘good thing’

Posted Tuesday, Nov. 15, 1:38 a.m. Judy Miller, the former New York Times reporter who has been criticized for articles she wrote in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, said Monday night that removing Saddam Hussein from power “was a good thing,” and America would have gone to war regardless of her articles.

Miller has been criticized for writing articles based on false information and playing up the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

“(Bush) would have gone to war without the Judy Miller stories because he wanted to go to war,” Miller said in response to the criticism over stories she wrote about weapons of mass destruction that included questionable information.

Miller’s comments came at “The Kalb Report,” a GW co-sponsored event at the National Press Club in which journalist Marvin Kalb converses with media personalities. Miller spent 85 days in jail earlier this year to protect source I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s former chief of staff, who court documents allege provided information about former CIA operative Valerie Plame. Miller said that she was unable to discuss many specifics about the situation because of her potential testimony in court.

Despite restrictions on what Miller could talk about, Kalb still asked why she felt the need to protect Libby, adding that he’s “a big boy.”

“When do you protect a source? One man’s whistle blower is another man’s snitch,” she said.

Miller repeatedly said that it is a reporter’s job to get information to the American public, and to do this reporters must “encourage the free flow of information” between them and their sources.

Her stint in jail ended Sept. 29 when she named Libby as her anonymous informant. Not long after her release, Miller, a Pulitzer Prize winner, ended her 28-year rollercoaster career at The Times.

Miller has claimed in court that she was unable to remember in what context Plame’s name was given to her by Libby, except for the fact that she was the wife of Joseph Wilson, a U.S. ambassador who traveled to Niger in 2002 and later wrote an opinion piece saying that Bush exaggerated the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Miller claims her notes of the interview with Libby were cluttered.

“At the beginning of interviews you don’t know where it will go,” she said, adding that she has a bad memory and tends to takes lots of notes. She said the context of the information was lost in the mix because she was not expecting to write a story about Plame and was directing her interview with Libby toward other questions.

Miller said she never planned to write a story from the leaked information that Libby gave her because she knows that high officials usually leak such information with an ulterior motive. She said she suggested to her editors at The Times that someone should “pursue the information.”

Kalb also touched on Miller’s relationship with The Times. Originally the paper backed Miller while she was in jail to protect her source, but later it accused her of misleading editors when it came to the Plame story.

Miller resigned from the paper Nov. 9, citing, among other reasons, difficulty in performing her job effectively after having become an integral part of the stories she was asked to cover.

“Once I became the news, it was impossible to stay at The New York Times,” she said.

Miller was hired at Washington bureau of The Times in 1977 because of affirmative action, she said. After women at The Times sued the paper, the company began to solicit “qualified women reporters.” She said she told editors she would cover anything, and after an editor gave her a chance, she stuck with the paper for 26 years. Before The Times, she had never worked for a daily paper.

During her tenure at The Times, Miller became immersed in the Middle East. She started with covering topics including its history, the Islam and Judeo-Christian cultures and immigration. She said she saw the region as poorly covered except for when major events occurred.

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