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The Chronicles of Scooter: The Lyin', the Fitz, and the Woodward

Wait a minute......how does Woodward get into this?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 16, 2005.

We now have the story that Bob Woodward, who helped break Watergate thirty-three years ago, was requested by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to be interviewed under oath, and he was last Monday. All this because a Senior Administration Official claims to have told Woodward that the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a Bush critic, was a CIA agent, and this about a month before Valerie Plame Wilson was publicly outed by Robert Novak’s column. Woodward testified for more than two hours about the interviews with three administration officials he had for a book that came out last year, Plan of Attack. One of the three was Scooter Libby. The other two are currently known only to God and Woodward, Assistant Managing Editor for the Washington Post, and the only reference to Ambassador Wilson in his book is on page 202, and that in passing.

The major questions are: what or who is Fitzgerald after, who was this High Administration Official, and why did he come clean one week after the Vice President’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was indicted on November 3? Woodward, although not bound to silence, is keeping his for the moment. Woodward is on record as thinking the investigation isn’t about much, and he did not see evidence of a major crime. Fascinating position for a former member of Naval Intelligence to hold. He said this on Larry King the night before Libby’s indictment, when he referred to the prosecutor as a junk yard dog. It does apparently alter the timeline of the prosecutor, making Woodward the first reporter to have learned of Plame’s affiliation from a government source, who was not Scooter Libby.

Libby has said he first learned of Plame’s identity from Tim Russert of NBC, and his attorneys are making a big deal over Woodward’s involvement, although it really doesn’t affect their client’s indictment for lying. And, curiously, why did Woodward never mention this contact – one at the center of a criminal investigation - to his supervisors until last month? All this recalls Judith Miller’s fiasco at the New York Times. And there’s another wrinkle. Woodward says he had told Walter Pinkus, a highly regarded reporter who was covering the yellowcake/Wilson/Plame story, about having a source mention all this to him, but Pinkus doesn’t recall it, and since he was covering it for the Post, he likely would have.

So the major issue is: who was the Senior Administration official who alerted the Special Prosecutor to Woodward’s interview? How and why would a Senior Administration Official know about either Wilson or Plame or their marriage and her occupation if he hadn’t gone out of his way to know? And, other than a wish to nullify Wilson’s damnations of Bush’s fabrications about Iraq’s nuclear dreams by making him seem a househusband desperate for attention, why alert reporters at all?

To review, the administration claimed that Valerie Plame got her husband the job of investigating Niger selling Iraq uranium yellowcake because he was an unemployed ambassador at the time. You’d hope the government HR department would look harder than that, but this is Bush's Brownieland, after all, where today Bernie Kerik, Bush's first choice for Director of Homeland Security, has taken the 5th eight times in a New Jersey mafia probe.

Actually, Wilson was an authority on Niger, spoke the language, and knew WMD issues thoroughly. There was nobody better qualified, so his selection was excellent, as was his investigation and the conclusions from it. But the Bushies didn’t want to hear it. So why does this Administration Official - and Karl Rove denied it is he - suddenly remember his talk with Woodward? In defense of Libby, perhaps? Is it the Vice-President? There’s no way to tell.

Apparently, we’re to believe that Fitzgerald was surprised by this announcement from that official, and if true that’s a shock. But what if it isn’t true? Woodward admits having the official as a source, and Wilson's wife was mentioned but he didn't think it secret information. Again, this is Bob Woodward, who served in Naval Intelligence and has spent a day or two in Washington since.

So, if it was a disinformation move to unnerve and break the prosecution, it was clever and might work, which would be a shame. Although nobody is entirely innocent here, there are some grossly more guilty than others. This is a story that may change daily, as supposed mis-speakings and misunderstandings are cleared up, and like everything else, clarity will depend on Patrick Fitzgerald’s willingness to share with others. No breath holding on that score.