My guest today is Bob Woodward. Yesterday New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for refusing to reveal the identity of a confidential source to a grand jury. Yesterday was also the day that Bob Woodward's book about Deep Throat was published. It's called "The Secret Man." We're going to hear his thoughts about Miller's jailing and his reflections on his own use of confidential sources, including Deep Throat.
Let's start with the jailing of Miller. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wants her to reveal to a grand jury what she knows about the leak that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA officer. Plame's husband, the former ambassador, Joseph Wilson, believes her identity was leaked as payback for his criticisms of the Bush administration. Matt Cooper of Time magazine also faced prison for refusing to name his source, even after Time magazine decided to hand over Cooper's e-mails and notes to the grand jury. But at the last minute, Cooper's source released Cooper from the confidentiality pledge and Cooper agreed to testify to the grand jury. I asked Woodward his reaction to Miller's jailing.
Mr. BOB WOODWARD (Journalist): I think the judge and the special prosecutor made a big mistake, and they should not send her off to jail. There is not the kind of compelling evidence that there was some crime involved here, and my reaction is we ought to wake up and make sure that reporters have access to what's really going on in the government, particularly now given these terrorist attacks in London. That is when the press has to watch what the government is doing and do the kind of accountability reporting that is essential. You can't do it unless you have confidential sources. The high-profile case--it will freeze people up. They will be very reluctant to help people, like myself, who are trying to find out what's going on in the investigative, national security, counterterrorist world.
GROSS: Well, do you think that a terrorist attack like the one in London today--do you think living in times of terrorism is an argument for more reliance on confidentiality by reporters or is it an argument that the government should have more power to insist the journalists reveal who their confidential sources are for the greater good?
Mr. WOODWARD: It would depend on the case, but in this case involving Judy Miller, the woman who was the CIA undercover operative was working in CIA headquarters. There was no national security threat. There was no jeopardy to her life. There was no nothing. When I think all of the facts come out in this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great. If it involves some source in a terrorist organization where the government was trying to find out who was plotting the next attack in America and so forth, you would have a very different set of conditions, and I think probably in those cases, reporters would want to assist the government.
GROSS: Matt Cooper said that, you know, his source released him from the confidentiality agreement at the last minute, so Cooper's going to testify to the grand jury. But both Judy Miller and Matt Cooper said they wouldn't respect the waiver of confidentiality forms that investigators had given out, and they considered those forms coercive. What do you know about those forms and do you think we've entered into a new era with these waivers of confidentiality forms?
Mr. WOODWARD: Well, I can't tell you how terrible it is to have the government running around saying, `Oh, we want you to sign this waiver of confidentiality to reporters so we can get at not just who their sources are but try to figure out who was talking in the government and who reporters are talking to.' It's almost worse than the jailing of a reporter, because the sweep and scope of it is so large. You know, again, it's one of these things, it kind of starts in a small way, and then it becomes a very large issue, and you're going to choke off the flow of good information, particularly the kinds of information that the government doesn't want out, and that's often what needs to be published first.
GROSS: Has there ever been an effort like this to pressure confidential sources to release reporters from the pledge of confidentiality?
Mr. WOODWARD: Not to my knowledge and certainly not on this scale.
GROSS: The editor in chief of Time, who decided to turn in documents to the grand jury, said, `We are not above the law.' What do you think of that statement and do you think Judith Miller has put herself above the law?
Mr. WOODWARD: No, she clearly has said, and the editor of The New York Times has said, this is an act of civil disobedience. She has submitted herself to the law. She said she considers the higher interest here keeping her pledge of confidentiality, that that's even higher than her liberty, her freedom, so she's willing to go to jail. The remedy here, if I may go back to Watergate, was what Judge Sirica did 30-plus years ago, when there were competing interests between a prosecutor who wanted Nixon's tapes and Nixon, who was asserting executive privilege, much like a reporter's privilege, in a condition like that. What did Judge Sirica do? He didn't say, `Turn over the tapes to the grand jury in totality.' He said, `Bring them to me. I'll listen. I will measure the competing interests,' and he then did that, and he turned some parts of the tapes over that he thought were relevant, and he kept the rest confidential. A judge can do that. It's too bad Judge Hogan didn't find a middle course in this case.
GROSS: You know, in The New York Times editorial today, the editorial said that this is far from an ideal case. What makes this case far from ideal?
Mr. WOODWARD: Well, it's not a classic whistle-blower, and the issues don't really involve national security or people's lives or jeopardy, or I think in the end, we will find there's not really corruption here. It is such a complex case with players on issues that are not the kind of, you know, `We're publishing the truth so the public can learn that a president is a criminal,' for instance.
GROSS: Does this case say anything larger to you about how the government is using its power or do you think that would be going too far...
Mr. WOODWARD: Well, what's...
GROSS: ...to generalize in this case?
Mr. WOODWARD: ...interesting here, I think if you had the Bush administration people on your show, they would say they don't like this either. What they did is they appointed a special prosecutor, who has total independence. This harkens back to the days of the independent counsels going after Bill Clinton. Once you get one appointed, they have a mandate to almost go anywhere and, you know, I think one of the independent counsels, special prosecutors for the Clinton administration is still working now more than four years after the presidency ended. So this special prosecutor in the Judy Miller case has got all of this authority and independence, and it's the peril of giving somebody that kind of blank check.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Fresh Air, 7/7/2005
by Atrios at 09:18