Showing off, clamming up, leaks and plants

Bob Woodward’s statement about the CIA leak case includes questions asked by the prosecutor but apparently not answered by Woodward.


Woodward says, for example, that Fitzgerald “asked if I had possibly planned to ask questions about what I had learned about Wilson‘s wife with any other government official.” The question is not answered in the statement, nor does the statement clarify whether Woodward answered it in his deposition. Why not?


This question rises in the middle paragraph (graf 10 of 19 paragraphs; the page break on the Post’s web site), about as far down as you can bury a lede. Backward and forward lie similar questions.


“When asked by Fitzgerald if it was possible I told Libby I knew Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA and was involved in his assignment, I testified that it was possible I asked a question about Wilson or his wife, but that I had no recollection of doing so.” Thus possibly Woodward “asked” a question about Wilson or his wife, but this does not answer the question whether Woodward “told” Libby about Wilson’s wife. Why not?


Continuing, Woodward says that “My notes do not include all the questions I asked, but I testified that if Libby had said anything on the subject, I would have recorded it in my notes.” The open question remains open: if Woodward had told Libby about Wilson’s wife, would he have included that in his notes?


There is no reason to infer that Woodward told Libby about Wilson’s wife. We are never told whether Vice President Cheney saw or responded to the 18-page list of questions Woodward had prepared for him. But we do know by now that Cheney himself had passed along the information about Mrs. Wilson to Libby, his chief of staff. By the time Woodward was in conversation with Libby, both men probably had no need to discuss Mrs. Wilson further. Joe Wilson responds in reply to emailed questions that, after having been given the information about Mrs. Wilson, Woodward did not get in touch with the Wilsons to follow up or to check.


Regarding the personal interview with Libby, the statement continues, “I testified that on June 27, 2003, I met with Libby at 5:10 p.m. in his office adjacent to the White House. I took the 18-page list of questions with the Page-5 reference to ‘yellowcake’ to this interview and I believe I also had the other question list from June 20, which had the ‘Joe Wilson’s wife’ reference. I have four pages of typed notes from this interview, and I testified that there is no reference in them to Wilson or his wife.”


What about his handwritten notes? Or was this interview tape-recorded, as with the other interview mentioned previously in the statement? Why does the statement not clarify what records Woodward kept, in these four conversations pursuant to the inquiry?


“A portion of the typed notes shows that Libby discussed the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, mentioned “yellowcake” and said there was an “effort by the Iraqis to get it from Africa. It goes back to February ’02.” This was the time of Wilson‘s trip to Niger.” Does this meanLibby said that the Iraqi “effort” to get yellowcake from Africa goes back to February ’02? Was Libby implying that the Iraqis tried to purchase yellowcake in response to Wilson’s trip? Did Woodward not bother to follow up on this because it was preposterous?


Regrettably, some larger questions promise to remain unanswered for a while. Did Libby get in touch with Woodward, or Woodward with Libby, in response to an article by Post reporter Walter Pincus, referring to Wilson’s Africa trip? Did that call, the day after Pincus’ article, set up the following interview with Libby? Was there going to be White House damage control at the Post, handled by Woodward?


In the interview, was Libby filling in for Cheney on the 18-page list of questions, including the yellowcake one? Did Cheney ever see any of those questions? Was Cheney around for the interview with Libby?


Was Cheney ever asked about the bogus Niger-uranium story, by Woodward? If not, why not?


And why does Woodward’s own statement publish questions not answered? Was that some journalistic muscle-flexing, to make up for all the previous knuckling under?


[This blog is a slightly edited version of this week’s column in the Prince George’s Sentinel.]

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