What did Bob Woodward know and when did he know it?

Famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward testifies in the CIA leak case.

Published November 16, 2005 5:31PM (EST)

According to a report out today in the Washington Post, Bob Woodward, the famous reporter who exposed the Watergate scandal and who also serves as the Post's current assistant managing editor, testified under oath on Monday that a "senior administration official" had told him of CIA operative Valerie Plame almost a month before she was outed in a column by pundit Robert Novak.

The unnamed official apparently had alerted special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald on Nov. 3 -- a week after I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted in the CIA leak investigation -- of the mid-June 2003 conversation with Woodward in which the two discussed Valerie Plame and her position at the CIA.

In his statement, Woodward says that he testified about conversations with "three current or former Bush administration officials" he had been interviewing for an upcoming book he's working on. Although Woodward is keeping mum on the details of his conversation with the unnamed official who had notified Fitzgerald about the conversation, Woodward did say that he met with Libby at the end of June where they discussed Iraq policy. In his statement, Woodward said that he talked to Libby on June 23, 2003, with notes about Wilson's wife, but can't recall if the subject was ever discussed, and that it was possible that he told Libby that "Wilson's wife worked for the CIA" -- but had no recollection of doing so. So does this clear up or muddle even more so Libby's involvement in the leak case?

The Post notes that Woodward's testimony is significant because the unnamed official would be the first person to have discussed Plame -- not Libby. And it would make Woodward the "first reporter to have learned about Plame from a government source."

So many questions. For starters, who are the three officials Woodward talked to on background for his book, and who is the mysterious figure who suddenly, for reasons we can only speculate, decided to notify Fitzgerald about this only recently? Karl Rove's spokesman says that Turd Blossom was definitely not the source. Is there still some elusive figure in all this that we don't know about? Is it the same person who was the second yet-to-be named source for that Novak column back in the middle of July 2003? What more does Woodward, a critic of the investigation, know? And how much, if anything, does this have to do with Libby's defense strategy wherein his lawyers apparently are planning to try to compel as many journalists as they can to testify about any notes or records they might have relating to his case.

William Jeffress Jr., one of Libby's lawyers, seized on Woodward's testimony, citing it as evidence that the focus on Libby may not be as accurate as once thought, and that there may be other things that Fitzgerald doesn't know about. "Why did Mr. Fitzgerald indict Mr. Libby before fully investigating what other reporters knew about Wilson's wife?" Good question. Anyone think we'll get the answer?

By J.J. Helland

J.J. Helland is Salon's editorial fellow in New York.

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