WASHINGTON – One day after Washington Post editor Bob Woodward revealed he was told a CIA operative's name weeks before Vice President's Dick Cheney's former chief of staff revealed it to a New York Times reporter, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case said he isn't changing tack.
While in Chicago Thursday to make announcements on a different case, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald said the latest developments in the two-year old investigation have no impact on his pursuit of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.
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"I'm going to treat my case as special prosecutor like any other case. I don't discuss it ... while it's under investigation," Fitzgerald said.
Though Libby's lawyers called the Woodward revelations this week a "bombshell" for the case, Fitzgerald suggested nothing had changed since he announced indictments in the case last month.
"Unless there is some new development, we try our case in court under the rules before the ... judge at pre-trial proceedings and before a jury and judge at trial, so I'm just not going to comment," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald alleges Libby lied about his role in revealing the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to reporters. Her name was first revealed to the public in a column by Robert Novak in July 2003.
After testifying Monday before a grand jury looking into the CIA leak, Woodward disclosed publicly that he talked to Libby on June 20 and June 27 but didn't recall Libby mentioning Plame Wilson.
Woodward said another, now former, White House official told him about Plame Wilson before Libby talked to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, and that the original source mentioned Plame Wilson in a casual, off-hand way.
Some observers say the revelations muddy the waters for the prosecution, who has been investigating for two years whether Plame Wilson's name was revealed in an effort to retaliate against her husband, Amb. Joe Wilson, a Bush administration critic.
"So a juror could say, 'How could Libby remember what was said, who said it, who first mentioned it?' It was just casual conversation and well it should have been," said former Washington Post and New York Times reporter and bestselling author Ronald Kessler.
Critics suggested Thursday that Woodward has become too cozy with sources, "a creature of access" as one put it. Colleagues at The Washington Post added that "people feel let down" by what happened.
Woodward said he did tell his colleague, Walter Pincus, about the Wilsons before it became public.
Pincus, who was found in contempt of court Wednesday for not revealing his government sources for stories about the criminal investigation of nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, said he doesn't remember the conversation with Woodward.
Asked why he thought Woodward didn't also tell the newspaper, Pincus responded: "Bob is Bob. In this rather odd world, everybody has their own rules."
For some media critics, the fact that Woodward had dismissed the investigation as "laughable" saying the "consequences are not that great" is as big a sin as not telling his editors that he'd known Plame Wilson's name weeks before the alleged infraction by Libby.
"I do think that there's a problem with the fact that he had been so public in denigrating the investigation and, in fact, denouncing Mr. Fitzgerald," said Rory O'Connor, a blogger on Mediachannel.org.
Others say Woodward knew as much as anyone about the Plame Wilson affair and that he was right in his depiction of the events.
"This was not a systematic outing of intelligence agents. This was a political contest between the White House and the Wilsons and possibly some others in the agency," said Bob Zelnick of Boston University.
Woodward has accepted the criticism that he should have told his editors sooner, but not the complaints of critics who are irritated that he challenged the notion of a massive administration conspiracy to punish Wilson.
On that point, Woodward told FOX News on Thursday: "People want reporters to use information as a political weapon. I won't do that. I'm just trying to find out what happened, and report it as accurately as possible."