Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bob Woodward Morphs Into Judith Miller

An astonishing admission from famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward today that a source at the White House identified to him that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent and the wife of administration critic, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, nearly a month prior to Robert Novak’s infamous column outing the identity of the CIA agent. The disclosure comes more than two years after the investigation of the CIA leak case was commenced, and only after Woodward disclosed that he was required to give sworn testimony to the government concerning his source on November 14, 2005.

According to a statement released by Woodward today, he was contacted by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald on November 3, 2005 concerning his source after the indictment of Vice President Cheney’s chief of Staff Scooter Libby late last month at the conclusion of a federal grand jury’s work. According to Woodward, Fitzgerald contacted him in response to one of his White House sources (someone other than Scooter Libby) informing the prosecutor of a conversation the source had with Woodward in mid-June, 2003 during which the source told Woodward that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA on weapons of mass destruction as an analyst. The source released Woodward to testify to the government’s investigation but not to the release the source’s name to the public.

Woodward, who was working on another one of his books at the time, “Plan of Attack”, claims to have passed the information about Valerie Plame on to White House reporter for the Post, Walter Pincus. Pincus, interestingly, has no recollection of Woodward giving him this bombshell news. Woodward said, “It was the first time in 35 years as a reporter that I have been asked to provide information to a grand jury.”

The news today has set off a firestorm within the Post, not unlike the reaction of Judith Miller’s colleagues at the New York Times after her editors learned she had withheld key information about her source, Scooter Libby, and forced Woodward to make an apology for failing to reveal the conversation he had with the White House source for more than two years, “even as the investigation of who disclosed her identity mushroomed into a national scandal.” According to Howard Kurtz, Woodward withheld telling his superiors at the paper out of fear of being subpoenaed and his desire to protect his sources. The paper’s executive editor, obviously red-faced again by Woodward’s self-serving conduct, said Woodward “made a mistake.”

Kurtz’ stinging story following Woodward admission today including the following remarks: “The belated revelation that Woodward has been sitting on information about the Plame controversy reignited questions about his unique relationship with the Post while he writes books with unparalleled access to high-level officials, and about why Woodward denigrated the Fitzgerald probe in television and radio interviews while not divulging his own involvement in the matter . . . The disclosure has prompted critics to compare Woodward to Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter who left the newspaper last week amid questions about her lone-ranger style and why she had not told her editors sooner about her involvement in the Plame matter. An online posting at Reason magazine called Woodward 'Mr. Run Amok,' a play on Miller's nickname at the Times. Neither reporter wrote a story on the subject . . . Woodward has criticized the Fitzgerald probe in media appearances. He said on MSNBC's 'Hardball' in June that in the end 'there is going to be nothing to it. And it is a shame. And the special prosecutor in that case, his behavior, in my view, has been disgraceful.' In a National Public Radio interview in July, Woodward said that Fitzgerald made ‘a big mistake’ in going after Miller and that ‘there is not the kind of compelling evidence that there was some crime involved here.’"

Kurtz said, “Liberal blogger Josh Marshall wrote: ‘By becoming a partisan in the context of the leak case without revealing that he was at the center of it, really a party to it, he wasn't being honest with his audience’". Kurtz added that "Woodward had violated the newspaper's guidelines in some instances by expressing his personal views.”

Woodward came under heavy criticism earlier this year for refusing to disclose the identity of his famed Watergate source, “Deepthroat,” even after the source, former Assistant FBI Director Mark Felt, had made it known to him that he wanted to go public with his story. Critics contend that Woodward’s motivation to write a “tell-all” book after the elderly sources death caused him to discount Felt’s mental stability to prevent him from “sharing in the glory” and earning money for his own “tell all” book. As a consequence of Woodward's self-serving conduct, the Post was outscooped on the biggest news mystery of the century when Felt turned to Vanity Fair magazine to tell his story.

Fox News immediately jumped on Woodward’s disclosure as punching a huge whole in Fitzgerald’s case against Scooter Libby, since he was not the first known source to discuss Plame’s identity with a reporter. But this new information in no way impact’s Fitzgerald’s central charges against Libby: that he made false statements to investigators, that he perjured himself to the grand jury, and that he otherwise conspired to obstruct the investigation by his actions. A spokesman for Karl Rove, who remains under investigation for his role in the leak, was quick to tell reporters that Rove was not Woodward’s source. Woodward said that White House Chief of Staff Andy Card released him to publicly disclose him as one of his White House sources, but Woodward said Card did not discuss Plame with him.

Just who Woodward’s source was could be quite a bombshell, even though Woodward earlier said on CNN’s Larry King Live a few weeks ago that he had no bombshells to report with respect to this story. From his earlier books on this White House, we know that Woodward was granted unprecedented access to high up officials, including President Bush and Vice President Cheney. What if the other unnamed source was the President or the Vice President? This could get very interesting. By hook or crook, Bob Woodward will find a way to place himself at the center of any presidential scandal in Washington.

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