The Tar Pit

Friday, November 18, 2005

Woodward and source: chum for the sharks

In defense of of the First Amendment some reporters have been willing to risk jail time to protect their sources; Bob Woodward is willing to let other people go to prison to protect his sources.

Doesn't have the same ring, does it?

Dorsal fins can be seen above the surface, but the action is below. Woodward's wounded and his embarrassed editors at the Washington Post are hanging him and his source out as bait:

Post Editor Foresees Possibility of Naming Leak Source

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 - The executive editor of The Washington Post said on Thursday that if other reporters at the newspaper independently discovered the identity of Bob Woodward's confidential source in the C.I.A. leak case, the newspaper might decide to publish the source's name.

Mr. Woodward, an assistant managing editor at the newspaper and best-selling author, apologized on Wednesday for failing for two years to tell his Post bosses that he had learned from a government official about the C.I.A. officer Valerie Wilson. He testified under oath on Monday in the leak case after receiving permission to do so from his source, but the source has so far refused to permit Mr. Woodward to name him publicly.

"Each reporter is bound only by his own promises of confidentiality," The Post's executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr., said.


"Both values are legitimate - the public's need to know about the conduct of government officials, and the confidentiality of sources," said Bob Steele, who teaches ethics at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. "But they're in conflict."

What about the third value: the public's need to know about the conduct of members of the press? Or is the Fourth Estate above all that? Many minutes of many lives were wasted on the Valerie Plame non-scandal, and Bob Woodward had it in his power to prevent that.

Of course, so did his still-cowering, still-anonymous source, whose career will be justifiably ruined when his identity is disclosed. Should Woodward get off the hook, or get the hook?

From Michael Barone:

Patrick Fitzgerald has to be embarrassed. His statement at his press conference that Libby was the first administration official who identified Plame has been effectively refuted by Woodward's (reluctant) testimony. On Fox News Channel last night, Brit Hume interviewed former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Joseph diGenova, who said that under Justice Department guidelines Fitzgerald must consider dropping the indictment of Libby.

It is now clear that Mr. Libby's allegation by his lawyers that his memory was simply faulty makes a lot more sense now that we know that Bob Woodward was in fact the first person to receive that information not from Mr. Libby but from another, apparently former, government official," diGenova said. Former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing, diGenova's wife and law partner, said, "He has been investigating a very simple factual scenario, and he has missed this crucial fact. It makes you cry out for asking, 'Well, what else did he not know; what else did he not do?'"

Hat tip: Junk Yard Blog, who also writes:

Wilson Questions Woodward's Honesty

Yeah, let that sink for a minute. Then read this:

"It certainly gives the appearance of a conflict of interest. He was taking an advocacy position when he was a party to it," Wilson said.

Hm. So you can't take an advocacy position when you're a party to a situation. Like, say, going on a quasi fact-finding mission and reporting one thing to the CIA while reporting the exact opposite to the press? And writing a book about it. And getting your spy wife photographed for Vanity Fair. And giving interview to anyone with a camera and a microphone.

Let's unpack this, as the post-modernists say.

Woodward's story kneecaps one of Wilson's central claims-that the Bush administration outed his wife to intimidate and punish him. Woodward says that it was mentioned by an ex-administration official in a casual, offhand way.

Also blogging, "Generation Why?" discusses Wilson and Woodward in the Laughable Irony of the Day.

The Discerning Texan has a round up.

From The Left Coaster: Doing The Right Thing Instead Of The Might Thing

Other posts on this subject from The Tar Pit:

Woodward's LKL gaffe reveals source was a man
Woodwardgate scorecard: Armitage is #1!
WP Woodwardgate editorial spams red herrings
Woodwardgate: cuckolded Downie stands by his man
Howie Kurtz pimps lefty bloggers' "passion" for Woodwardgate

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