The Tar Pit

Saturday, November 19, 2005

WP Woodwardgate editorial spams red herrings

With sharks circling around embattled Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, the Post editorial board tried to distract its readers this morning with a few choice red herrings:

It's not in the public interest for reporters to be forced to reveal their confidential sources in cases such as this. That's why Post reporter Bob Woodward should not be vilified for protecting the identity of his source in this complex affair.

Woodward isn't being criticized for protecting the identity of his source; Woodward is being criticized for not being forthcoming that he had a source who'd informed him of Valerie Plame Wilson's CIA employment to his editor, Len Downie Jr. Woodward wasn't protecting his source by not disclosing this, because, according to Downie, "all of our reporters must tell an editor the names of any confidential sources for information or quotations in stories we publish. In addition, reporters must tell an appropriate editor about anything that occurs in their reporting that could be important to the newspaper, as this information was."

Since Post reporters have to disclose their sources to their editors and inform them of issues arising from their reporting that my be important to the paper, and since Woodward has apologized to Downie for failing to do just that, it's pretty clear that there was no "public interest" Woodward was serving by his failure.

But, but...

But the Woodward flap has significance beyond The Post's newsroom. The longtime Post reporter disclosed this week that, while conducting research for a book, he received information from an administration official about Ms. Plame before her identity was revealed by Robert D. Novak in a July 2003 column. That information was potentially relevant to Fitzgerald's investigation and to a news story that has been extensively covered in this and other papers. Mr. Woodward said he told one Post reporter at the time what he had learned but did not disclose the source. Mr. Woodward recently testified to the prosecutor, with the source's permission and after the source had spoken with Mr. Fitzgerald, but still (again according to his agreement) has not publicly identified the source.

No, the information was specifically relevant to the investigation, that's why Woodward was deposed by Fitzgerald, who has been investigating whether or not a crime was committed in the disclosure to Novak that Plame worked for the CIA. In his announcement of the indictment of Scooter Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Richard Cheney, Fitzgerald said that "Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson."

Woodward knew well before the Libby indictment that his information was relevant to the Fitzgerald investigation, that's why he said he "hunkered down" because he "didn't want anything out there that was going to get (himself) subpoenaed" by Fitzgerald. That's why he didn't disclose the information to Downie, who says "once the relevance of his conversation became clear because of the controversy over the Novak column, Bob should have told me about his conversation."

The relevance of Woodward's conversation to Fitzgerald's investigation was "clear," not a potentiality. Even Downie knows it. Even Woodward knows it.

The paper's editorial writer wants to play coy, but the Washington Post editorial board ought to be aware of these facts; they were reported in the Washington Post. If the members of the board don't have a subscriptions, the WP has a site online. Or perhaps their Media Reporter Howard Kurtz can keep the board abreast of what their own paper is printing.

Captain Ed has his own observations about the WP editorial and the consequent Woodwardgate fallout.

Other posts on this subject from The Tar Pit:

Woodward's LKL gaffe reveals source was a man
Woodwardgate scorecard: Armitage is #1!
Woodwardgate: cuckolded Downie stands by his man
Woodward and source: chum for the sharks
Howie Kurtz pimps lefty bloggers' "passion" for Woodwardgate

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