WASHINGTON — Longtime Washington Post editor Bob Woodward on Wednesday apologized to his executive editor at the paper for withholding information that a senior White House official had told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame, even as a questions about those leaks ballooned into a major scandal.
"I apologized because I should have told him about this much sooner," Woodward is quoted as saying on the Post's Web site.
The Web site says Woodward told Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. that he withheld the information out of concern that he might be subpoenaed by the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
“I hunkered down. I’m in the habit of keeping secrets,” Woodward said. “I didn’t want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed.”
The Post reported that at least one senior Bush administration official — who was not identified — told Woodward about Plame about a month before her identity was publicly exposed.
Downie was informed by Woodward late last month, the Web site said. On Tuesday, The Post revealed that Woodward testified under oath a day earlier in the investigation of leaks that exposed Plame's identity. Plame is married to former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had criticized U.S. intelligence efforts before the Iraq war.
Libby back in court
The Post reported that Woodward told Fitzgerald, who is investigating the leak of Plame’s identity, that the official talked to him about Plame in mid-June 2003. Woodward and editors at the Post refused to identify the official to reporters other than to say it was not Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former top aide.
Video: Woodward says he knew CIA agent's name Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Karl Rove’s legal team, said Rove was not the official who talked to Woodward. Rove is a top deputy to President Bush and was referred to, but not by name, in Libby’s indictment, as having discussed Plame’s identity with reporters.
Meantime, Libby, who was indicted last month on perjury and obstruction charges, reviewed documents Wednesday at a federal courthouse.
Accompanied by his legal team, he walked into the courthouse without the crutches that he’d been using during a court appearance two weeks ago when he pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the CIA leak investigation.
On June 23, Libby told New York Times reporter Judith Miller that Wilson’s wife might work at the CIA. Robert Novak, in a column published July 14, identified Plame, as a CIA operative.
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Do statements complicate indictment?
Woodward’s testimony in a two-hour deposition Monday would mean that another White House official told a reporter about Plame before Libby revealed her identity to Miller.
William Jeffress Jr., one of Libby’s lawyers, told the Post that Woodward’s testimony raises questions about his client’s indictment. “Will Mr. Fitzgerald now say he was wrong to say on TV that Scooter Libby was the first official to give this information to a reporter?” Jeffress said.
Woodward, famous for his investigation with Carl Bernstein of the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration, is now assistant managing editor of the Post. In October, he was dismissive of the outing of Plame, telling CNN’s Larry King that the damage from her exposure was “quite minimal.”
Meanwhile, The Associated Press on Wednesday joined other news organizations in asking U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton to deny a court motion by Fitzgerald for a blanket protective order keeping all pretrial evidence in Libby’s case out of public view.
The special prosecutor is seeking a court order that would prohibit Libby and his legal team from publicly disclosing “all materials produced by the government.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.