Slow Burn: The Road to the Iraq War

Season 5: Episode 7


Judith Miller made the WMDs case in the New York Times. Does she still stand by her reporting?


Episode Notes

In the months before the invasion of Iraq, the media mostly backed the Bush administration’s narrative about weapons of mass destruction. No reporter was more influential on that beat than the New York Times’ Judith Miller.

How did she get the story so wrong—and why was she the only person to take the fall?

Season 5 of Slow Burn is produced by Noreen Malone, Jayson De Leon, and Sophie Summergrad. Mixing by Merritt Jacob.

The last two episodes of this season are available only to Slate Plus subscribers. You can sign up by going to It’s only $15 for your first three months.

Sources for This Episode


Draper, Robert. To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq, Penguin Press, 2020.

Isikoff, Michael and David Corn. Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, Crown, 2006.

Miller, Judith. The Story: A Reporter’s Journey, Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Mnookin, Seth. Hard News: The Scandals at the New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media, Random House, 2004.

Rich, Frank. The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush’s America,

Penguin Press, 2006.  


Ganguzza, Mark and Kathleen Hughes. Bill Moyers Journal: Buying the War, PBS, April 25, 2007.


Barstow, David, William J. Broad, and Jeff Gerth. “The Aluminum Tube Story—A Special Report; How White House Embraced Suspect Iraq Arms Intelligence,” New York Times, Oct. 3, 2004.

Dickinson, Tim. “Judith Miller: Tipped Off to 9/11?,” Rolling Stone, May 18, 2006.

Eggen, Dan. “Background on the CIA Leak Case,” Washington Post, Oct. 28, 2005.

Foer, Franklin. “The Source of the Trouble,” New York Magazine, May 28, 2004.

Follmer, Max. “The Reporting Team That Got Iraq Right,” HuffPost, May 25, 2011.

Gellman, Barton. “U.S. Suspects Al Qaeda Got Nerve Agent From Iraqis,” Washington Post, Dec. 12, 2002.

Gordon, Michael R. and Judith Miller. “U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts,” New York Times, Sep. 8, 2002.

Landay, Jonathan S. “CIA Analysts Disagree Over Saddam’s Nuclear Threat,” Knight Ridder, Oct. 5, 2002.

Massing, Michael. “Now They Tell Us,” New York Review of Books, Feb. 26, 2004.

Millbank, Dana and Walter Pincus. “Bush Clings To Dubious Allegations About Iraq,” Washington Post, March 18, 2003.

Miller, Judith. “A Chronicle of Confusion in the U.S. Hunt for Hussein’s Chemical and Germ Weapons,” New York Times, July 20, 2003.

Miller, Judith. “C.I.A. Hunts Iraq Tie to Soviet Smallpox,” New York Times, Dec. 3, 2002.

Miller, Judith. “Defectors Bolster U.S. Case Against Iraq, Officials Say,” New York Times, Jan. 24, 2003.

Miller, Judith. “Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, An Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert,” New York Times, April 21, 2003.

Miller, Judith. “Iraqi Tells of Renovations at Sites For Chemical and Nuclear Arms,” New York Times, Dec. 20, 2001.

Miller, Judith. “Iraq Said to Try to Buy Antidote Against Nerve Gas,” New York Times, Nov. 12, 2002.

Miller, Judith and Michael R. Gordon. “White House Lists Iraq Steps To Build Banned Weapons,” New York Times, Sept. 13, 2002.

Mnookin, Seth. “Unreliable Sources,” Vanity Fair, December 2005.

Pincus, Walter. “U.S. Lacks Specifics on Banned Arms,” Washington Post, March 16, 2003.

Risen, James. “How Politics and Rivalries Fed Suspicions of a Meeting,” New York Times, Oct. 21, 2002.

Risen, James. “My Life as a New York Times Reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror,” the Intercept, Jan. 3, 2018.

Risen, James. “Prague Discounts an Iraqi Meeting,” New York Times, Oct. 21, 2002.

Shafer, Jack. “Leak of the Week: Madame Smallpox,” Slate, Dec. 6, 2002.

Shafer, Jack. “The Times Scoops That Melted,” Slate, July 25, 2003.

Staff of the New York Times, The 2002 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Explanatory Reporting.

The Times and Iraq,” New York Times, May 26, 2004.

Tyler, Patrick E. with John Tagliabue. “Czechs Confirm Iraqi Agent Met With Terror Ringleader,” New York Times, Oct. 27, 2001.

Van Natta Jr., Don, Adam Liptak, and Clifford J. Levy. “The Miller Case: A Notebook, a Cause, a Jail Cell and a Deal,” New York Times, Oct. 16, 2005.

Warrick, Joby. “Doubts Remain About Purpose of Specialized Aluminum Tubes,” Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2005.

Wilson IV, Joseph C. “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” New York Times, July 6, 2003.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

Where the Media Failed

On Judith Miller’s mistakes in covering Iraq, plus Dan Rather on media patriotism and Eli Pariser on the anti-war movement.


About the Show

In 2003, the United States invaded Iraq without provocation. Most Americans supported the war—as did most politicians and intellectuals, both liberal and conservative. Today, it’s universally considered a disaster.

Hosted by award-winning reporter Noreen Malone, the fifth season of Slow Burn explores the people and ideas that propelled the country into the Iraq war, and the institutions that failed to stop it. How did the Iraq catastrophe happen? And what was it like to watch America make one of its most consequential mistakes?

All episodes


  • Noreen Malone is the host of Slow Burn Season 5. Formerly, she was the editorial director of New York magazine and a host of Slate’s The Waves. Her magazine reporting has earned a George Polk Award.