New York Times reporter to speak today on WMDs |

New York Times reporter to speak today on WMDs

Eben Harrell
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter and best-selling author whose reporting about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has recently received criticism, will speak today at Paepcke Auditorium.

Miller is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist whose most recent book, “Germs: Biological Weapons and America’s Secret War,” drew attention when she received a letter containing white powder at her office during the height of the anthrax scare.

The letter turned out to be a hoax, but the story, and Miller’s best-selling book, cemented the reporter as the prominent source in American journalism on weapons of mass destruction.

As a result, Miller was the only American journalist during the most recent Iraq war to be embedded with a military intelligence team searching for WMDs. Her groundbreaking stories leading up to the conflict, and during the war itself, received criticism for a perceived lack of scrutiny shown to official reports from governmental agencies.

The Nation, one of the magazines leading the attack on Miller’s coverage, claimed the journalist was nothing more than a “vehicle for administration views.”

Miller defends her coverage of weapons searches in Iraq. She said her reports were based on available intelligence and that her critics’ anger is misdirected.

“I think this is very much a case of shoot the messenger,” Miller said from New York Tuesday. “I was simply reporting what the intelligence agencies believed. I was doing my job.

“I think anger should be directed at the intelligence analysts or at an administration that believed Iraq’s WMDs were an imminent threat.”

Miller believes the criticism directed at her is a result of the intense polarization caused by the Iraq war. She points to the death of British weapons expert David Kelly as a catastrophic causality of this polarization. He committed suicide after he was named as the source for a controversial BBC report that the British government “sexed-up” intelligence reports to support the Iraq war.

“David was a friend and a mentor. His loss is a loss for everyone who cared about battling weapons of mass destruction,” Miller said.

She said today’s talk will focus on her book about biological weapons. Questions about recent controversies at The New York Times and in journalism in general will be limited to a question-and-answer session.

In her lecture, Miller will urge people not to become complacent about WMDs, even though none were found in Iraq.

“I’m afraid some people might draw the wrong conclusion from Iraq,” Miller said. “Look, we know who carried out the September 11 attacks. But we still don’t know who killed the five Americans in the anthrax letter attacks a few months later.

“It’s a very scary, very unpredictable threat.”

The event will be held at Paepcke Auditorium at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at the Wheeler Box Office (920-5770) and at the door starting at 5 p.m.