WASHINGTON – Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward dismissed claims that he should have revealed his role in the CIA leak case when he discussed the investigation on news interview shows.
The Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell wrote in Sunday's editions that Woodward erred by publicly commenting on the case on a cable news show and on National Public Radio without mentioning that a top Bush administration official had told him the name of a covert CIA officer.
However, Woodward told CNN Monday night: "Every time somebody appears on your show talking about the news or giving some sort of analysis, there are going to be things that they can't talk about."
Woodward again acknowledged that he should have told his editor at the Post.
"I have a great relationship with Len Downie, the editor of the Post, and I was trying to avoid being subpoenaed," Woodward said. "And I should have, as I have many, many times, taken him into my confidence. And I did not."
Howell wrote that Woodward had committed a "deeply serious sin ... the kind that can get even a very good reporter in the doghouse for a very long time."
"He has to operate under the rules that govern the rest of the staff — even if he's rich and famous," she wrote.
A special prosecutor conducted a two-year investigation of the leak of the name of the CIA officer, Valerie Plame, to reporters.
The probe has resulted in the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, 55, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on charges that he lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how he learned about Plame's identity and when he subsequently told reporters.
Plame's identity was revealed in July 2003 by columnist Robert Novak after her husband, ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence about Iraq's efforts to buy uranium "yellowcake" in Niger.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald portrayed Libby as the first government official to have shared Plame's name and her work at the CIA. But the Post reported that Woodward, who achieved fame for his reporting on the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration, may have been the first reporter to learn about Plame in mid-June of 2003, before the Novak column ran.
"I don't like this," Woodward said. "This is a mighty uncomfortable situation. ... And, yes, some people are unhappy and angry about my role, but, you know, you keep running into situations as a reporter. Where are you going to go?"
Woodward again questioned the importance of the case. "When it all comes out — and hopefully it will come out — people will see how casual and offhand this was," he said.
"Remember, the investigation and the allegations that people have printed about this story is that there's some vast conspiracy to slime Joe Wilson and his wife, really attack him in an ugly way that is outside of the boundaries of political hardball," Woodward said.
"The evidence I had firsthand — a small piece of the puzzle, I acknowledge — is that that was not the case."