A new and unexpected name was added to the rogue's
gallery of leading government officials and journalists involved in the CIA
leak scandal that of Bob Woodward, the famed Watergate reporter and
Washington Post editor.
The Post revealed that Mr. Woodward was told the identity of Valerie Plame
in mid-June 2003 by an unidentified White House official. Ms. Plame was a
CIA operative who was "outed" in a column by Robert Novak in apparent
retaliation against her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, for
discrediting one of President Bush's justifications for the war concerning
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
The Post reported that Mr. Woodward is the earliest known reporter to
receive this information and that his source in the White House was not I.
Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., who resigned as Vice President Dick Cheney's
chief of staff after he was indicted in the scandal.
The disclosure adds to questions over special prosecutor Patrick J.
Fitzgerald's vigor in investigating the scandal. It undermines the account
given in the Libby indictment and highlights gaps in the investigation.
But it is the media that should be most concerned about the disclosure. Mr.
Woodward now joins Judith Miller, a former reporter for The New York Times,
and Mr. Novak as journalists who have engaged in highly questionable
conduct. This was no momentary lapse of judgment by Mr. Woodward but a
serious ethical breach that was premeditated and prolonged.
Walter Pincus, a Post reporter who testified in the Plame case, said
yesterday he believed in 2003 that Mr. Woodward was involved in it but that
he did not pursue the information because Mr. Woodward asked him not to,
according to Editor & Publisher, the trade magazine.
With a long line of journalists going before the grand jury and fighting
subpoenas, Mr. Woodward appeared on countless TV shows as a neutral
observer. He must have known then that he could be accused of the very same
involvement. Indeed, he knew that he was given the information earlier than
any of the reported meetings but never told his readers or his editors.
Even more troubling, Mr. Woodward used these TV and radio appearances to
criticize the investigation and insist that the disclosure of Ms. Plame's
identity was no big deal. He insisted that "when the story comes out, I'm
quite confident we're going to find out that it started kind of as gossip,
as chatter, and somebody learned that Joe Wilson's wife had worked at the
That somebody now turns out to be Mr. Woodward. He also repeatedly
challenged as "laughable" the idea that a crime was committed by officials
or the journalists involved in the matter.
In one interview, Mr. Woodward was asked by Newsweek reporter Michael
Isikoff if it was true that he had information about who was the original
source for Ms. Plame's identity. Mr. Woodward acknowledged that his editor,
Len Downie, had called to ask if he had such a "bombshell" and he assured
him that he had no such information.
Mr. Woodward defends himself in part by saying that he was protecting a
source. It is spin, and not a particularly good one. He could have revealed,
as did other journalists, that he heard this information from an
unidentified official. He then could have refused to disclose the name of
his source until released by the source, as did other journalists. He
remained silent even as Ms. Miller was booted from the Times.
Indeed, Mr. Woodward, in an interview with CNN's Larry King, dramatically
offered himself as a surrogate to serve part of Ms. Miller's jail time as a
matter of principle. When he made this grand gesture, Mr. Woodward must have
known that he was avoiding that same test of principle by simply not
informing his readers or his editors of his involvement.
There may be more to this story and some exculpatory explanation from Mr.
Woodward. At a minimum, he should have recused himself from discussing this
scandal in his TV appearances. Instead, he chose to hide his involvement and
portray himself as neutral. He also continued to serve as an assistant
managing editor at the Post as the paper dealt with the investigation and
subpoenas to testify without ever revealing his conflict of interest.
If the media are going to cover this scandal, they should do a better job in