The newspaper that would be most affected by postinvasion reconsiderations was the New York Times, which for a year had resisted looking under the rock of Judith Miller's coverage. It is an old saying in the public relations business that bad news is like dead fish: It doesn't improve with age, it only begins to stink more. That axiom proved doubly true for the Times, whose resistance to review was becoming embarrassing by the spring of 2004.
On the heels of her reckless prewar coverage of WMD, Miller had traveled to Iraq and cut a wide swath. Embedding with an Army unit searching for weapons of mass destruction, she filed a series of articles in the spring of 2003 that suggested that large amounts of stockpiles were about to be uncovered. Like the Bush administration, Miller seemed to believe what she was saying about WMD. . . .
The New York Times' official reaction to stories about Miller's antics was a Nixonian stonewall. . . .
First in May 2004, more than a year after the invasion of Iraq, the Times responded with an official once over lightly. It declined to name the people it was writing about, though they were reporters whose names were readily available at the top of each article examined. . . . A few days later, Daniel Okrent, the Times's new public editor, or ombudsman, lowered the boom. He named Judith Miller and Patrick Tyler as authors of the bad stories and faulted editors for a variety of errors . . .
On September 30, 2005, [Miller] testified that her source [for some of her WMD stories] had been [Lewis] Libby, [Vice President] Cheney's aide. She wouldn't share her notes with Times reporters writing about the situation. Jill Abramson, the newspaper's tough managing editor, all but called Miller a liar in print, following a dispute over what the two had said to each other. Within a few weeks Miller's career at the Times ended.
© 2006, Thomas E. Ricks. All rights reserved.