Judith Miller: I Was Tipped Off About 9/11
Judith Miller, The New York Times reporter at the center of the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby case, reveals that she received advance word about a terrorist plot that turned out to be 9/11 - but the Times spiked the story.
Miller spent 85 days in jail before finally disclosing that Libby was the source who confirmed to her that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative.
Miller - who's no longer with the Times - never wrote a story about Plame. But she's more troubled by another story that didn't run - the one about 9/11.
Miller began investigating al-Qaida after the terrorist group's October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole in the harbor of Aden, Yemen.
Over the weekend before July 4, 2001, there were strong indications that terrorists were planning to attack the U.S. or a major American target elsewhere, Miller said in an interview with Scott Malone and Rory O'Connor that appeared on the Web site NavySEALS.com. The attack never materialized. But that weekend "I did manage to have a conversation with a source," she told the interviewers.
"The person told me that there was some concern about an intercept that had been picked up. The incident that had gotten everyone's attention was a conversation between two members of al-Qaida. And they had been talking to one another, supposedly expressing disappointment that the United States had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against what had happened to the Cole.
"One al-Qaida operative was overheard saying to the other, "Don't worry; we're planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.'
"I was obviously floored by that information. I thought it was a very good story - the source was impeccable, the information was specific, tying al-Qaida operatives to, at least, knowledge of the attack on the Cole, and they were warning that something big was coming, to which the United States would have to respond. This struck me as a major Page 1-potential story."
However, when Miller met with her editor Stephen Engelberg, he was critical, noting that Miller didn't know who the operatives were, where they were overheard or what attack they were planning.
"At that point I realized I didn't have the whole story," Miller said. She continued to probe, but couldn't turn up enough information to satisfy Engelberg.
The story never ran. And two months later came al-Qaida's Sept. 11 attacks.
Engelberg, now managing editor of The Oregonian in Portland, told the Columbia Journalism Review: "More than once I've wondered what would have happened if we'd run the piece. A case can be made that it would have been alarmist and I just couldn't justify it, but you can't help but think maybe I made the wrong call."
Said Miller: "Sometimes in journalism you regret the stories you do; but most of the time you regret the ones that you didn't do."
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