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Fitzgerald Calls for New Grand Jury; Woodward Fallout Continues

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Reuters reports that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has filed a request for a new grand jury. The report stated “‘the investigation will involve proceedings before a different grand jury than the grand jury which returned the indictment’ against Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby.” (tip)

Legal experts assert that Fitzgerald “is considering additional criminal charges in the case.” In a related matter, 16 former CIA officers have written President Bush, “asking for a pledge not to pardon anyone involved in leaking Valerie Plame’s name to reporters and to pull security clearances of anyone at the White House who spoke to reporters about her CIA status.”

Meanwhile, the fallout from WaPo editor and reporter Bob Woodward’s involvement in the case continues. On Saturday, WaPo editorial board wrote that White House “punishment” is merited only if “administration officials deliberately set out to unmask a secret agent” and says that “[i]t’s not in the public interest for reporters to be forced to reveal their confidential sources in cases such as this.” [Note – the editorial board does not say that Woodward should be allowed to withhold information from a grand jury – only the “public.” This is not Woodward’s position.]

Earlier this week, Woodward testified under oath in a deposition before Fitzgerald. Woodward stated that he learned of Wilson’s wife in mid-June 2003, opening the curtain on the WaPo’s own Judy Miller show. An unnamed administration official told Fitzgerald on 3 November that he told Woodward about Wilson’s wife in June 2003.

Others are not so sanguine, asserting that Woodward’s lucrative book deals have caused him to value access more than honor. From Marketwatch:

Just when you thought that journalists couldn’t bring any more embarrassments to the craft, Woodward says, Gotcha! He now takes his place along side the others who have caused members of the profession to be mortified and, at the very least, apologize to the public about our ethical lapses…

At the same time, his declaration has essentially blown the lid off one of journalism’s dirty little secrets. A reporter can withhold information from his boss (and the employer’s audience) in the self-interest of making a lot of money by writing a book.

This theme is echoed at Salon:

By withholding critical information from the Post’s editors and pretending to be a neutral observer, Woodward badly compromised the values that he and his newspaper once embodied. A living symbol of the great constitutional role of a free press — to hold government accountable — has evidently degenerated into another obedient appendage of rogue officialdom.

With his relentless pursuit of “access,” the literary formula that has brought him so much money and fame, Woodward placed book sales above journalism. Boasting of his friendly relationship with the president who facilitated his interviews with administration officials, he now behaves like the journalistic courtiers of the Nixon era…

And while there is no question that reporters owe a duty of confidentiality to their sources, it is also true that they owe candor to their colleagues and transparency to their readers.

Woodward claims that the information was passed along to him as “gossip” and that he told collegue Walter Pincus, who wrote a story on the topic, without naming names, around the time Woodward says he learned about Plame. Pincus denies this account: “Are you kidding?” he says. “I certainly would have remembered that.”

Ariana Huffington asks Woodward 15 questions. The first is, in my opinion, damning: “If you didn’t tell your editor, Len Downie, about the CIA leak because you were so afraid of being subpoenaed, why did you supposedly tell Walter Pincus? Did you trust Pincus but not Downie?”

It’s not just “pundits” who are dismayed at Woodward’s behavior. WaPo Leonard Downie Jr. learned this in an online discussion Friday. A few comments from readers – who often ask more pertinent questions than reporters:

(Washington, DC):I want to know if Mr. Woodward it going to publicly apologize to Mr. Fitzgerald for his public, personal attacks over the course of the investigation. It is obvious now he was doing so for his own personal gain, and he needs to make amends publicly.

(Arlington, VA): I am less troubled by the internal shoulda-told-the-boss and journalism issues than I am by Woodward’s very public criticisms of the special prosecutor. Calling Fitzgerald a “junk-yard dog” while withholding information that now has stood the investigation on its head was simply inexcusable. The next time I hear Woodward say anything, I will have to wonder what he’s hiding.

(Branford, CT): I used to regard Mr. Woodward as a hero, of sorts, for his valuable contributions during Watergate. The recent revelations make me think he may be less than honorable and self-serving.

(Richmond, VA): I don’t object to Woodward expressing his opinion. What I object to is him doing so while he was involved in the matter without making it clear that he was involved in the matter. This is dishonest in the extreme, and in my view has probably destroyed his credibility. From now on, anybody can question the motives behind anything he says or writes. No one has made such a claim, but any claim that he didn’t know better would not be credible. The Post will not even publish a letter to the editor without the writer making known their interest in the matter.

(Washington, DC): Thanks for doing this exchange. I don’t understand why there is an issue of confidentiality if the exchange between a reporter is “gossip” rather than “gathering info” for a story….does that mean the default position is that everything is off the record when talking with a reporter? That was not the case in the mid 80s when I was a reporter/editor. Also, at the time the “gossip” comment was made, there was no Fitzgerald (nor was there one on the horizon), so those explanations for keeping quiet seem somewhat constructed after the fact. Thanks.

Insiders at the WaPo are also concerned about personality-driven news. From internal conversation:

“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.”

As someone who studied journalism in the immediate post-Watergate era, I confess to feeling baffled, betrayed and angry at Woodward’s behavior — his silence would be bad enough, but the fact that he injected himself into the investigation in the role of dismissive critic is just wrong in the light of his involvement.

I don’t think journalists should be “sources” for TV pundit shows, should be “newsmakers,” but that’s another story. And I’m not alone, per this WaPo reader noted Friday:

(College Park, Md): My impression is that reporters are becoming increasingly “players” rather than observers. Reporters identify more with the elites they follow around and go to dinner with, than the rabble they write for. Woodward’s reporting for example, looks more and more like insiders’ stories. Where can we outsiders turn for real investigative reporting?

We get the government (and the media) that we ask for.

See:Bob Woodward and the CIA Leak – A case of culpable silence, Bob Woodward’s Confession: Vanity? Need for Limelight? Or Just Stupidity?, Bob Woodward: Brought to book ,The Long, Long Fall of Bob Woodward,Sore Throat,WaPo Letters-to-the-Editor (19 Nov), The Woodward Bombshell,Woodward joins a decadent dance

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Bob Woodward,Fitzgerald,Iraq,Plamegate,,Valerie Plame

This article first ran at uspolitics.about.com

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About Kathy

  • Bliffle

    Is the MSM liberal?

    I don’t think so. I think the press sucks up to whoever is in power, the establishment. They are apolitical, just ambitious. Currently, we have a rightist regime in power and the MSM reflects that. If someone on TV or in the newspapers is insufficiently supportive of The Establishment they are described as “Liberal” by everyone else.

    What points this out lately is the circumstances of Judy Miller and Bob Woodward. Both of these people are customarily described as ‘liberal’, and maybe they are, but both of them have been carrying water for the rightists for at least the last two years. Miller reported “WMD” propaganda that was gossiped to her by Libby without critical examination and without corroboration, thus negating her claim to being an “investigative reporter”. She investigated nothing! She slavishly reported what she was TOLD to report by a known propagandist. That makes her a clerk, not an “investigative reporter”.

    Woodward is the same. Of course, the rightists chose him to argue their case because of his excellent ‘liberal’ credentials, it being assumed that he exposed Nixons perfidies because he would be a ‘liberal’ opposed to Nixons ‘conservative’ stance. Did people ever consider that he exposed Nixon not for some notion of ‘justice’ but just for cheap fame and money?

    Both of these people (and probably many others, like Novak) were told state secrets (in violation of the law) to manipulate their reporting. Thus, they said things in their reporting that were conditioned by these secrets and NOT by info available to citizens. They were used by clever manipulators who took advantage of their greed and ego.

    No one seems to be worried that government officials, Senior Administration Officials (SAOs), are telling important secrets to any old reporter who is well known. What’s to say these ‘reporters’ are not criminal spies for foreign powers? They have NO security clearance. Is it NOT a crime to tell secrets to these unclassified people? IS it not the responsibility of the recipients to report these national security leaks to the FBI?

    Aside from the dire security implications (shouldn’t Libby, Novak, Miller and Woodward all be locked up for their security violations?) how can one ever trust ‘reporters’ again? When you know that their opinions and reporting are manipulated by secrets?