The Scoop on Woodward

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Wednesday, November 16, 2005; 12:57 PM

In a startling development reported in today's Washington Post, it now appears that Bob Woodward was the first reporter to whom a senior administration official leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Woodward is an assistant managing editor at The Post and the best-selling author of insider accounts of the Bush White House. He is best known as part of the team of journalists that broke the Watergate story that ended Richard Nixon's presidency three decades ago.

More recently Woodward -- who is working on his third book about the Bush administration -- had been publicly scornful of special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation.

Today's shocker adds a whole new prologue to the story as we knew it and once again thrusts the issue of journalistic conduct into a debate that many journalists would prefer was solely about White House conduct. It also calls new attention to Woodward's unique relationship with the Bush White House.

Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig write in The Washington Post: "Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.

"In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.

"Fitzgerald interviewed Woodward about the previously undisclosed conversation after the official alerted the prosecutor to it on Nov. 3 -- one week after Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted in the investigation. . . .

"Woodward said he also testified that he met with Libby on June 27, 2003, and discussed Iraq policy as part of his research for a book on President Bush's march to war. He said he does not believe Libby said anything about Plame."

Here is the text of Woodward's public statement about his testimony.

Woodward's source was apparently neither Libby nor presidential adviser Karl Rove, widely seen as Fitzgerald's most likely next target. And Woodward wouldn't specify the date of the disclosure any further than to say it was in "mid-June." Nevertheless, that definitely pre-dates Libby's first mention of Plame's identity during his meeting with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on June 23.

Fitzgerald's indictment says Libby found out about Plame's identity on June 11 from a CIA official, and then again on June 12 from Vice President Cheney. It doesn't say how Cheney knew, how long he knew, or who else he might have told.

ABC News's The Note reports that "a senior Administration official, speaking to ABC News' Jessica Yellin, 'laughed' at the suggestion that Cheney was Woodward's source."

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