Bob Woodward must’ve been jealous of the absolute jouranalistic mess Judy Miller got herself and the NY Times into regarding Scooter Libby and Plamegate. Because he’s now done the same to himself and the Washington Post (see story) regarding his knowledge of Valerie Wilson’s identity (through an unnamed Administration source) well before Libby spilled the beans to Miller. This new development raises scores of questions–among them:
1. why didn’t Woodward report the contact to his editors?
2. when he discovered the subject of Pat Fitzgerald’s inquiry and that the latter was investigating serious national security breaches, why didn’t he report the conversation to Pat Fitzgerald?
3. what is the motivation now of the original Administration source who revealed Wilson’s ID to Woodward in coming forward to Fitzgerald to reveal the conversation just after Libby’s indictment?
4. Did Leonard Downie have the kind of talk with his political reporters that Phil Taubman of the Times had with the paper’s Washington bureau asking if any of them had been offered Wilson information by any Administration sources? If he did, what did Woodward say when asked? If he didn’t, why didn’t he? What good is he as an editor if he can’t monitor his charges properly?
Woodward’s and the Post’s answer to the first question is that Woodward has a “special arrangement” with the Post (do I hear someone say “Big Mr. Run Amok?”) by which he does not have to share information he gleans in preparation for writing his Bush “Path to Power”-type exposes. Also, the journalist would argue that he did not know at the time of the original conversation that Wilson was an undercover operative. However, this does not explain why he didn’t come forward as soon as Fitzgerald was appointed to the case. Personally, I think he aided in concealing a potential crime and had an affirmative responsibility to come forward, which he didn’t. At an absolute minimum, he had a responsiblity to go back to his source and ask for a release from his confidentiality agreement. He could have argued that the federal investigation trumps the agreement. Even if his source disagreed at least he could say he made an attempt. But he didn’t even do this.
Josh Marshall is absolutely correct in noting the brazen conflict of interest in Woodward going around the media circuit impugning Fitzgerald’s investigation when he himself knew he was deliberately concealing material testimony from the prosecutor. This is absolute hypocrisy and the most shoddy judgment. I don’t know whether Woodward is guilty of obstruction of justice. Even if he’s not, he’s tarnished himself and the Post in the same way that Miller tarnished the Times:
Woodward never mentioned this contact — which was at the center of a criminal investigation and a high-stakes First Amendment legal battle between the prosecutor and two news organizations — to his supervisors until last month. Downie said in an interview yesterday that Woodward told him about the contact to alert him to a possible story. He declined to say whether he was upset that Woodward withheld the information from him.
Just like Miller, who dragged her paper into the mire and then (with the connivance of her publisher) handcuffed the Times from covering the story, Woodward handcuffed the Post by concealing an important aspect of the story from his employer. Might it not be time for the Post to consider showing Woodward the door just as the Times recently did for Miller? The problem of course is that Woodward is a household word among journalists and is always good for tons of newsworthy copy (not newsworthy to me but perhaps to his editors and some Post readers–personally, I think Woodward is a semi-fossilized journalistic windbag). But I’d argue that no matter how much juice the connection to Woodward brings the paper it doesn’t make up for the sleaziness of this act.
You’re going to find that Woodward tries the same tack as Miller in seeing himself as the victim and as having done nothing wrong. That’s the way media stars see themselves. They never have anything to apologize for. They always do things out of the best of motives. Well, it won’t wash any better for him than it did for Miller. Let Woodward go off and write his Bush on the Path to History books. He doesn’t need the Post to pontificate. Nor does the Post (or us for that matter) need him.
Let’s examine the motivation of the still confidential source in the Bush Administration who revealed the information to Woodward. The Post notes this source didn’t come forward until a week after Libby was indicted. That too seems like obstruction of justice. And the timing is sneakily suspicious, as if the source was attempting to undermine Fitzgerald’s case against Libby. Do you think the source might be Cheney himself or someone else in his entourage? After all, if Libby is willing to “go down” protecting Cheney–might not Cheney have decided that he would do what he could to protect Libby? The Times reports this telling piece of information:
Mr. Cheney did not join the parade of denials. A spokeswoman said he would have no comment on a continuing investigation. Several other officials could not be reached for comment.
And if Cheney IS the source, then it puts him right in the thick of it. And since Fitzgerald has been trying to ascertain Cheney’s level of knowledge of Wilson’s identity (you can tell how hard he’s tried by Miller’s chracterization of her testimony to the grand jury), this would guarantee the Big Guy gets a second look. Since Woodward made clear that his source did not reveal that Wilson was undercover then perhaps this protects Cheney somewhat (unless Fitzgerald can secure independent confirmation that Cheney knew she was). Getting back to Libby, it appears that this, at first glance, tends to undermine the charges against him when one learns that Libby was NOT the first Administration figure to spill the beans about Wilson. But then again, if it was Cheney perhaps the chances of proving a conspiracy between the two rises.
The Times article also raises this tantalizing possibility of added jeopardy for Cheney:
If there are inconsistencies between Mr. Woodward’s account and any earlier account by his source, Mr. Fitzgerald could be obliged to explore new legal implications.
So since Cheney HAS testified before all of this came out (and again this assumes he IS the source which may or may not be the case) then Pat and his attorneys are busy pouring over Cheney’s original testimony, comparing it to what he said after coming forward to reveal his conversation with Woodward and with Woodward’s own testimony. That’s alot of potential jeopardy for Big Guy.
Returning to Woodward, given his dismissive attitude toward Fitzgerald’s investigation, this new revelation seems to be yet another attempt (by his source or him) to undermine it whether intentionally or unintentionally. It makes Woodward an actor in the story and a bad (I mean that in both senses) one at that. This development also makes it that much harder for Fitzgerald to build a convincing case against Libby. Not that he can’t do it because one should never underestimate Pat Fitzgerald’s prosecutorial abilities.
Let’s hope that Pat has enough ammunition to build as strong a case against the source as he has against Libby. By the way, since ‘Official A’ is taken should we start calling this person Official X? It has a nice mysterious ring to it, doesn’t it?