This past Sunday, the talking heads pretty much omitted the CIA leak/plant case.
With major media outlets circling the wagons to protect their remaining credibility, we turn to Bob Woodwards published statement itself (Testifying in the CIA Leak Case, Washington Post Nov.16, 2005), for what it actually discloses.
The statement as read reveals:
That one of the unnamed officials told Woodward in mid-June 2003 that former ambassador Joseph Wilsons wife worked for the CIA on weapons of mass destruction as a WMD analyst.
That Woodward then carried with him to other interviews with administration officials, that month, one or more lists of questions and items including his notation Joe Wilsons wife.
That Woodward had a phone conversation with Libby on June 23, with his notation about Wilsons wife on his desk at the time, but does not recollect any mention of her in the conversation.
That Woodward also had an interview with Libby on June 27, in which Libby discussed the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) about alleged Iraq weapons of mass destruction. In this interview, Libby also mentioned yellowcake and referred to an effort by the Iraqis to get yellowcake from Africa. He also referred to February 2002, which as Woodward says was the time of Wilsons trip to Niger.
That Woodward again carried the item about Wilsons wife to the interview in his list or lists, but does not recollect any mention of her in the interview.
The disclosures raise questions. Was that first conversation with the unnamed official, who has now gone to the prosecutor in the Plame matter, by phone or in person? Did that official provide any documentation about Wilsons wife, or was Woodward expected just to take his word for the item?
A phone message left before the holidays with Woodwards office at the Post, and emails sent for forwarding to Woodward through several offices at the paper, have not been answered.
For what it is worth, no government official in Woodwards book Plan of Attack comes across as casual or offhand. But an administration official dropped an item about a CIA analyst to Bob Woodward, who has maintained CIA contacts for years and has written a book about the CIA, and he took it to be casual and offhand? Why?
The statement refers to a total of four conversations with three government officials, relating to the Plame investigation. Who initiated these interviews? Was Woodward called, or did he do the calling? Did they arise in response to particular events or reports?
The statement also contains the curious item that Wilsons wife was referred to but not by her name. In retrospect, doesnt it seem odd that more than one government official, as we now know, told about Wilsons wife being a CIA analyst but also referred to her as his wife rather than by name? Given that those mentions have been alike in style as in substance, dont they seem more concerted in that way, especially in light of later excuses that we didnt name her?
Did any of these officials also drop the impression that Wilsons Niger trip had been arranged by Mrs. Wilson? Why is that not clarified in the statement? Whats the secret? We know by now that that was going to be the administration line, that Wilsons trip was some sort of junket tipped to him by his wife; why leave it out of this statement? Doesnt the public have a right to know, given that the administration was clearly going after its domestic critics?
The statement also says Woodward testified that after the mid-June 2003 interview, he told Post reporter Walter Pincus about Wilsons wife, a mention Pincus reportedly does not recall. If Woodward, who has been criticized widely for decades for being in bed with the CIA, and who is also management at the Post, idly dropped this item about a CIA analyst to a Post reporter, why did he do so?
If Woodward did pass the item along to Pincus, how soon after mid-June was it? Was it before or after July 13, when Robert Novak transmitted it in his column? Was Woodward, rather than Novak, the first journalist to transmit the planted item?
In response to questions, Joe Wilson replies by email that Woodward was not present when the Washington Post interviewed Wilson about his Niger trip on July 6, 2003. Wilson also responds that Woodward was not at the June 14, 2003, conference where Wilson referred to his Niger information and told retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern that he intended to go public on the yellowcake story in about two weeks.
We have known for a while that the Bush administration uses any means to go after opponents, critics or even questioners. But the CIA plant case is now opening up some of the ways this administration has used willing media outlets as its means not just the usual outlets of Fox News or publications from the Reverend Moon, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Hoover Institution, but the former flaming brands of investigative journalism at places like the Washington Post Company.
My own recommendation for the major media outlets is that they pursue an aggressive hang-out, and do it fast. If they keep trying to sweep this one under a rug, they will dwindle even further and faster than they have already dwindled in respect and trust.