Friday, May 26, 2006
Posted on May 25, 2006, Printed on May 26, 2006
Last week, William Scott Malone and I broke the story of how a still anonymous, senior White House official leaked top-secret NSA intelligence in 2001 to then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller. The intelligence indicated that Al Qaeda was planning a major attack on the United States. But the “The 9/11 Story That Got Away” never made it into the paper.
It never made it to the attention of top Times executive Bill Keller either. Keller, now executive editor of the paper, was managing editor in July 2001. But he was kept in the dark when Miller’s “impeccable” source first revealed details of highly classified signals intelligence (SIGINT) concerning an impending Al Qaeda attack, perhaps to be visited on the continental United States. The NSA had been listening in on a conversation between two members of Osama bin Laden’s terror network. One was overheard saying to the other, “Don’t worry, we’re planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.”
Asked to comment on our revelation, Times man Keller emailed a statement that said in part, “I heard nothing about this from Judy or Steve (Stephen Engelberg, Miller’s editor) at the time.”
Keller went on to note, “Obviously it would have been satisfying to have ‘predicted’ the 9/11 attacks -- just as it was satisfying that we identified Al Qaeda as an important threat before 9/11, in the Pulitzer-winning series Judy heavily reported and Steve edited.”
As Miller explained in our exclusive interview, she was initially “floored” by the information from her source, and thought the story had “major Page One potential.” But after meeting with Engelberg, she agreed with his assessment that the story lacked sufficient detail. “I realized that I didn’t have the whole story,” she told us. “As Steve put it to me, ‘You have a great first and second paragraph. What’s your third?”’
Keller concluded by seeming to damn Miller - a controversial figure who remains at the center of the ongoing perjury and obstruction of justice case involving former top White House official I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby - with faint praise: “What Steve had in hand that day in July was a promising lead from an excited reporter,” Keller noted, “Not, or not yet, a story. It was the kind of tip that good investigative reporters build on, not something you throw into the paper in all its vagueness.”
Did Keller mean to imply that Miller is not a “good investigative reporter?” After all, as Keller noted, she won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on Al Qaeda. But Miller and Keller certainly clashed in the weeks following Miller’s release after spending 85 days in jail before finally disclosing that Scooter Libby was her anonymous source in the Valerie Plame affair -- another story Miller never wrote for the Times. In the aftermath of the Libby revelation, Miller was pilloried, Pulitzer and all, in the pages of the Times, and finally forced to leave.
Whatever Keller may have meant to suggest in all his vagueness, by her own admission Miller didn’t do much to build on the tip she received about the impending Al Qaeda attack. “I realized that this information was enormously sensitive, and that it was going to be difficult to get more,” she told us. “But that my source undoubtedly knew more. So I promised to Steve that I would go back and try to get more. And I did…try.”
But whoever knew about the ‘who’ and the ‘where’ was not willing to tell Miller more at that time -- although she says she later “was told that, ‘The bad guys were in Yemen on this conversation.’”
That bit of information never made it to Times higher-ups such as Keller either, and Miller soon moved on. “Washington being Washington, and the CT [counter-terrorism] world being the CT world, I was soon off pursuing other things.”
Read the rest HERE.
White House officials in July 2001 KNEW there was an impending major attack by al Queda, yet King George did nothing whatsoever to stop it.
Feel safer knowing that?