November 17, 2005


Woodward Could Be a Boon to Libby (Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei, 11/17/05, Washington Post)

Woodward testified Monday that contrary to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's public statements, a senior government official -- not Libby -- was the first Bush administration official to tell a reporter about Plame and her role at the CIA. Woodward also said that Libby never mentioned Plame in conversations they had on June 23 and June 27, 2003, about the Iraq war, a time when the indictment alleges Libby was eagerly passing information about Plame to reporters and colleagues.

While neither statement appears to factually change Fitzgerald's contention that Libby lied and impeded the leak investigation, 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.

"I think it's a considerable boost to the defendant's case," said John Moustakas, a former federal prosecutor who has no role in the case. "It casts doubt about whether Fitzgerald knew everything as he charged someone with very serious offenses." Other legal experts agreed.

Moustakas said Woodward also has considerable credibility because he has been granted "unprecedented access" to the inner workings of the Bush White House. "When Woodward says this information was disclosed to me in a nonchalant and casual way -- not as if it was classified -- it helps corroborate Libby's account about himself and about the administration," Moustakas said. [...]

Rove's defense team also believes he could benefit tangentially from the Woodward disclosure because it shows other officials were discussing Plame in casual ways and that others have foggy recollections of the period as well, according to a Republican close to Rove.

"It definitely raises the plausibility of Karl Rove's simple and honest lapses of memory, because it shows that there were other people discussing the matter in what Mr. Woodward described as very offhanded, casual way," a source close to Rove said. "Let's face it, we don't all remember every conversation we have about significant issues, much less those about those that are less significant."

The most important thing to remember about Bob Woodward is that everything he's done in his career has advanced the caiuse of conservatism.

Woodward Disclosure Causes a Stir: The Washington Post journalist's role in the CIA leak investigation sets off new speculation, but its effect on Libby's case is uncertain (Tom Hamburger and Richard B. Schmitt, November 17, 2005, LA Times)

In a more-than-two-hour deposition, Woodward said, he told Fitzgerald that the unnamed official had casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Woodward said in an interview that he had not thought that her position was classified. Most analysts at the CIA are not working in a covert capacity, but Plame, a veteran overseas agent, had retained covert status.

It is illegal under certain circumstances to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert operative.

Woodward told Fitzgerald that he also had met with Libby on June 27, 2003, and that he did not think Libby mentioned Plame.

The news was greeted as a godsend Wednesday by Libby's lawyers. They were in Washington's federal district courthouse reviewing documents.

Libby has been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in the case, which started after Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly criticized the Bush administration for allegedly "twisting intelligence" in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Wilson had been sent by the CIA to look into reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger, and he had found little evidence to support the claims.

Administration officials are believed to have leaked Plame's name as a way of undermining Wilson's credibility. Her identity became public in a syndicated column by Robert Novak in July 2003.

Libby's lawyers jumped on the Woodward disclosure as helpful to their client and hurtful to the prosecution's case.

"First, the disclosure shows that Mr. Fitzgerald's statement at his press conference of Oct. 28, 2005, that Mr. Libby was the first government official to tell a reporter about Mr. Wilson's wife was totally inaccurate," said a statement released by Wells. "Second, Woodward's disclosure that he talked to Mr. Libby during this period and that Libby didn't discuss Plame undermines the prosecution's claim that Libby was actively seeking to discredit Wilson by leaking information about his wife."

Dan French, a lawyer representing a witness in the case, said he doubted the revelation would be as explosive as Libby's lawyers were claiming, because it did not change the facts as to whether Libby lied to investigators about what he had said to whom.

"I don't think it blows up the case," French said. "But the [perjury] case is built on claims of memory and lack thereof. The very fact that other reporters are hearing about Plame creates confusion, and allows defense attorneys to raise reasonable doubt" about whether Libby deliberately misled investigators.

Others were more focused on Woodward's behavior.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 17, 2005 8:17 AM

Is Fitzmas over?

Posted by: Dave W. at November 17, 2005 10:31 AM

First Miller, then Woodward.....which big-name journo will be the next to be drummed out of the MSM Old Boys', er, Persons' Club?

Posted by: ed at November 17, 2005 1:19 PM