Sun, Nov 20, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Woodward under siege after inquiry


Bob Woodward, the journalist usually treated in the US with a reverence reserved for elder statesmen, found himself under siege inside his own newspaper on Friday over his role in the CIA leak inquiry.

Woodward, who was able to keep secret the identity of his most famous source -- Deep Throat -- for more than 30 years, was forced to give evidence to the special prosecutor investigating who leaked the identity of a CIA agent.

first to know

It emerged that the man whose reporting on the Watergate scandal helped bring down former president Richard Nixon was the first journalist to learn from an administration official that Valerie Plame, the wife of former US ambassador and Bush critic Joseph Wilson, worked for the CIA.

Woodward was then forced to apologize to the editor of the Washington Post for keeping his bosses in the dark for more than two years over his role in the story, even as it grew into a scandal in which Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, has been indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice.

On Friday a Washington Post internal critique, leaked to the Web site mediabistro, highlighted the friction the Woodward disclosures have caused within the newspaper.

"I feel like we're ignoring the 800lb elephant [Bob Woodward] on our front page," wrote Charles Babington, one of the Post's political writers.

Columnist Jonathan Yardley was even more damning: "This is the logical and perhaps inevitable outcome when an institution permits an individual to become larger than the institution itself."

Robert Pierre, another staff writer, wrote: "It does look awful and it impacts on the credibility that each of us individually, and collectively, have as we make our case to people about why they should trust us ... I think this whole affair of journalists and politicians using anonymity to trade information and then cast themselves of the common good stinks."

The Pulitzer prize winner did receive some support.

critical support

"Before we draw and quarter Woodward for making a mistake that he has apologized for, let's remember what the man has meant to this institution," Jeff Leen wrote.

"Bob would be the first to tell you he is not bigger than this institution ... He has given this institution far more than he has taken from it," he added.

Woodward, who has the title of assistant managing editor at the Post, regularly appeared on television in the lead-up to the indictment against Libby, describing the damage from Plame's exposure as minimal.

When asked by CNN's Larry King whether he would have a "bombshell" article identifying the leak's source, he replied: "I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker."

The two-year investigation has been led by the Chicago district attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald -- described by Woodward as a "junkyard dog" -- who has been relentless in his pursuit of how Plame's identity was leaked after her husband accused the Bush administration of fixing the intelligence ahead of the Iraq war.

The special prosecutor is continuing to investigate the role of US President George W. Bush's most important adviser, Karl Rove.

The reputation of the New York Times has also been dragged through the mud after one of its most senior reporters, Judith Miller, was jailed for initially refusing to testify.

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