Woodward Apologizes to Post For Silence on Role in Leak Case

Bob Woodward is not naming his government source, citing confidentiality.
Bob Woodward is not naming his government source, citing confidentiality. (Brad Barket - Getty Images)
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 17, 2005; 1:45 AM

Bob Woodward apologized to The Washington Post yesterday for failing to reveal for more than two years that a senior Bush administration official had told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame, even as an investigation of who disclosed her identity mushroomed into a national scandal.

Woodward, an assistant managing editor and best-selling author, said he told Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. that he held back the information because he was worried about being subpoenaed by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel leading the investigation.

"I apologized because I should have told him about this much sooner," Woodward, who testified in the CIA leak investigation Monday, said in an interview. "I explained in detail that I was trying to protect my sources. That's job number one in a case like this. . . .

"I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets. I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed."

Downie, who was informed by Woodward late last month, said his most famous employee had "made a mistake." Despite Woodward's concerns about his confidential sources, Downie said, "he still should have come forward, which he now admits. We should have had that conversation. . . . I'm concerned that people will get a mis-impression about Bob's value to the newspaper and our readers because of this one instance in which he should have told us sooner."

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.

"It just looks really bad," said Eric Boehlert, a Rolling Stone contributing editor and author of a forthcoming book on the administration and the press. "It looks like what people have been saying about Bob Woodward for the past five years, that he's become a stenographer for the Bush White House."

Said New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen: "Bob Woodward has gone wholly into access journalism."

Robert Zelnick, chairman of Boston University's journalism department, said: "It was incumbent upon a journalist, even one of Woodward's stature, to inform his editors. . . . Bob is justifiably an icon of our profession -- he has earned that many times over -- but in this case his judgment was erroneous."

Shortly after Woodward's conversation with Downie in late October, a federal grand jury indicted Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plame case. Woodward told Fitzgerald that he met with Libby on June 27, 2003, but that he does not recall discussing Plame or her husband, White House critic and former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

Yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. said that he was a source whom Woodward testified he spoke with during that period. But Woodward said that neither Plame nor Wilson came up during that conversation.

Fitzgerald has spent nearly two years investigating whether administration officials illegally leaked Plame's name to the media to discredit Wilson.

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company