I haven’t given a lot of thought to Bob Woodward’s disclosure that he talked to a White House official about Valerie Plame a week before Scooter Libby mentioned her to a reporter. It puts Woodward in an odd light–not for the first time–and his view of the discussion of Plame as no big deal, because “an analyst in the CIA is not normally an undercover position,” is consistent with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s apparent conclusion that Plame was not a covert agent within the meaning of the relevant federal statute.
But I don’t understand the position of those, like Deborah Orin in today’s New York Post, that Woodward’s testimony is a bombshell that imperils Fitzgerald’s case against Libby. Deborah writes:
The CIA-leak probe is in big trouble because superstar reporter and Watergate hero Bob Woodward has emerged as a surprise witness for the defense potentially undermining the case against ex-White House aide Scooter Libby.
Woodward’s statement also says it was “Deep Throat 2” a “current or former” Bush administration official who first went to prosecutors to reveal their conversation, surely well aware that it would help Libby.
But Woodward’s revelation undermined the prosecutor’s claim that Libby was working to out Wilson’s wife since Woodward revealed that he spoke to Libby twice about Iraq’s weapons around that time, but Libby never mentioned her.
The problem with this theory is that Libby is charged with perjury, not “outing” Ms. Plame. The indictment alleges that he lied to the grand jury about his conversations wih Tim Russert and Judy Miller. The subject matter of the alleged lie is how he learned about Plame’s relationship with Joe Wilson and her role at the CIA. I don’t see how anything he did or didn’t say to Woodward, or any conversation Woodward had with a third party, can help Libby. If anything, Woodward’s testimony reinforces what a needless tragedy it was if Libby really did lie to the grand jury.