November 20, 2005

Woodward rebuked over leak case

By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Washington Post's ombudsman
rebuked journalist Bob Woodward on Sunday for withholding what
he knew about the CIA leak probe from his editor and for making
public statements that were dismissive of the investigation
without disclosing his own involvement.

One of the best-known investigative reporters in the United
States, Woodward revealed last week that he testified under
oath to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that a senior
Bush administration official told him in mid-June 2003 about
CIA operative Valerie Plame's position at the agency.

Fitzgerald announced a few days later in court papers that
his two-year criminal investigation into who leaked Plame's
identity would be going back before a federal grand jury, a
sign he may seek new or revised charges.

The name of Woodward's source has yet to be made public and
so far more than a dozen senior administration officials have
denied any involvement in the leak.

Asked on "Fox News Sunday" if he ever spoke to Woodward
about Plame, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "No, of
course not." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a
similar denial through a spokesman on Saturday.

In a column highly critical of Woodward's conduct,
Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell said the newspaper
took a "hit to its credibility" and called for more oversight
of Woodward's work.

"He has to operate under the rules that govern the rest of
the staff -- even if he's rich and famous," Howell wrote of
Woodward, one of the two Washington Post reporters famed for
coverage of the 1970s Watergate scandal that brought down
President Richard Nixon.

Howell said Woodward committed a "deeply serious sin" by
keeping Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie in the dark about
his source for more than two years.

"He also committed another journalistic sin -- commenting
on National Public Radio and (CNN's) "Larry King Live" about
the Plame investigation without disclosing his early knowledge
of Plame's identity," Howell wrote.

In a series of television and radio interviews before
publicly disclosing his involvement in the leak case, Woodward
described the leak case as laughable and Fitzgerald's behavior
as "disgraceful."

One day before Fitzgerald brought charges against Vice
President Dick Cheney's long-time chief of staff, Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, Woodward said he saw no evidence of criminal

Woodward has apologized to Downie, who said "Bob made a
mistake" by not informing him sooner of his source on Plame.

"He made a mistake going on television, giving his opinions
about the investigation. ... He shouldn't have been expressing
those opinions," Downie added on CNN's "Reliable Sources."

Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband, has called for an inquiry
by The Washington Post into Woodward's conduct, citing a
similar investigation by The New York Times into the conduct of
reporter Judith Miller, who resigned from The Times earlier
this month.

Miller, who spent 85 days in jail for initially refusing to
testify to Fitzgerald about her conversations with Libby,
resigned after Times Executive Editor Bill Keller suggested she
had misled the paper, a charge Miller denied.