Woodward Faces His Own Watergate

Bob Woodward's own paper, the Washington Post, reports that the Watergate hero's new revelations might help Scooter Libby with his legal troubles.

The revelation that The Washington Post's Bob Woodward may have been the first reporter to learn about CIA operative Valerie Plame could provide a boost to the only person indicted in the leak case: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Legal experts said Woodward provided two pieces of new information that cast at least a shadow of doubt on the public case against Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, who has been indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges....

The Libby legal team plans to use Woodward's testimony to try to show that Libby was not obsessed with unmasking Plame and to raise questions about the prosecutor's full understanding of events. Until now, few outside of Libby's legal team have challenged the facts and chronology of Fitzgerald's case.

The Washington Times says the Libby indictment should be dismissed.

Bob Woodward's just-released statement, suggesting that on June 27, 2003, he may have been the reporter who told Scooter Libby about Joseph Wilson's wife, blew a gigantic hole in Patrick Fitzgerald's recently unveiled indictment of the vice president's former chief of staff.

While that indictment did not charge Mr. Libby with outing a CIA covert operative, it alleged that he lied to investigators and the grand jury....

However, the heart of his perjury theory was predicated upon the proposition that Mr. Libby learned of Valerie Plame's identity from other government officials and not from NBC's Tim Russert, as claimed by Mr. Libby. Indeed, Mr. Fitzgerald seemed to have a reasonable case because Mr. Russert, a respected and admired journalist, with no vested interest of his own, denied that he discussed the Mr. Wilson's matter with Mr. Libby....

In light of these facts, it is at least doubtful whether a reasonable jury would find Mr. Libby guilty. Moreover, as argued by Washington lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey in an article appearing on today's op-ed page, under the U.S. Attorney's Manual provisions, no prosecution should be commenced unless the attorney representing the government believes that he has evidence that will probably be sufficient to obtain a conviction. Accordingly, Mr. Fitzgerald should do the right thing and promptly dismiss the indictment of Scooter Libby.

Woodward's fellow Watergate hero, Carl Bernstein, as expected offered words of support.

“I think there is an awful lot of piling on,” Bernstein said to Editor and Publisher. "It’s outrageous to question Bob’s integrity as some seem to be doing. Anyone who looks at the record knows that it is the most distinguished journalistic record of our time."

As for why Woodward has refused to allow Post reporters to interview him, "I’m sure at some point, Bob will make himself available. Now is not the time to do it, for all kinds of reasons."

Rem Rieder at American Journalism Review says that although Woodward has apologized to the Post's executive editor, "that hardly undoes the damage."

I've also been troubled by his dual role as Post scoopmeister and assistant managing editor on the one hand, and Bob Woodward Inc., producer of numerous best-selling books, on the other.

Woodward has been criticized over the years for withholding juicy tidbits from the Post for use in his books. It makes you wonder where his loyalty lies. And by keeping silent about the Plame leakage, he casts himself as an independent operative accountable to no one.