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Gary Younge
Veteran Middle East specialist no stranger to controversy

What makes it all the more strange is that Ms Miller never actually wrote a story about the leak and it has not yet been ascertained if anyone committed a crime.

"I would be going to jail for a story I didn't write, for reasons which I don't know, for something which may not actually have been a crime," she told an audience at Berkeley's Wheeler Auditorium this year. "It's become kind of Kafkaesque."

Ms Miller is no stranger to controversy. Yesterday US journalists clamoured to support her as she was led away by US marshals to up to four months in jail for refusing to reveal her source to investigators seeking the truth behind the leaking of the CIA agent Valerie Plame's name to the media. But over the past two years her reporting has been the subject of intense criticism because of accusations that she was insufficiently critical of the Bush administration's claims that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"I applaud her willingness to go to jail to protect her sources, but this does feel a bit like part of Judy Miller's rehabilitation project," Sandy Tolan, a Middle East expert and instructor at Berkeley's graduate school of journalism told the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. "Maybe that's because she keeps saying, 'I'm no martyr, I'm no martyr, I'm no martyr'."

Ms Miller, 57, was born in New York and became one of the few US female reporters to cover the Middle East. Since she joined the New York Times almost 30 years ago she has earned a reputation as a tough character prepared to stand her ground in a newsroom renowned for being competitive.

In 2002 she shared a Pulitzer prize for her reporting on global terrorism. But as the war progressed many accused her of relying too heavily on unreliable sources from the Iraqi exile community - notably Ahmad Chalabi, the former Pentagon favourite who has since become a deputy prime minister in the Iraqi government.

In one article she claimed that weapons of mass destruction had been found. She went on television to say this was "more than a smoking gun" it was a "silver bullet". It turned out not to be true.

"It's an amazing twist in her career," Michael Massing, a contributing editor at Columbia Journalism Review who has been a stern critic of Miller's reporting, told the Washington Post in February. "At a time when she was being held up to such scrutiny for her writing on Iraq, she now is being cast in the role of journalistic martyr."

Ms Miller has remained unapologetic about her reporting. "We are not omniscient," she said earlier this year. "The answer to insufficient reporting is more reporting."

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