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The Bob and Judy Show


Bob Woodward’s bizarre explanation for his failure to reveal that he was aware of the Bush administration’s attempt to expose the name of an intelligence agent a month before Judy Miller or any other reporter is not credible.

Taking Woodward at his word, the fact that he didn’t think the initial leak was important makes sense. He was busy. His mind was on his book and everything on his horizon was seen through the context of that project. But as soon as Joe Wilson wrote his op-ed in the New York Times and Bob Novak took the White House bait and exposed Wilson’s wife, Woodward should have taken action.

We understand why Judy Miller didn’t. She and her neocon sources had a track record of bad stories based on bad intelligence that led the country to war. She was not likely to expose those who could expose her. Woodward had no such skeletons in his closet. He writes warm and fuzzy books about the President. His calls get returned, even from the top administration officials. The inexplicable thing is that, like Miller, he did not do a story about the fact that the neocons were trying to destroy a CIA agent’s career.

A cub reporter could have smelled what was coming out of the Vice-President’s office. Yet America’s premier investigative reporter didn’t figure it out?


Add to this stew the fact that Woodward has been going on television over the last couple of years telling us all there are no more Watergates and that this leak investigation is pretty minor stuff. In that context his behavior becomes disturbing.

It is no secret that Woodward has had a curious relationship with the intelligence community. As a young Naval officer he was a very junior player to a number of covert operations. In the early days a number of reporters wondered if Bob was more comfortable working in a newsroom or doing the dirty work of a politically motivated Admiral who was jealous of Henry Kissinger. Bob Woodward knows when a job is being done on someone.

Woodward is not exactly a warm and fuzzy colleague. Several decades ago I was investigating the disappearance of a John Paisley, a top CIA official, who vanished while sailing on Chesapeake Bay. When I dug into Paisley’s background I learned he had been an active participant in a sex partner swapping club in the middle of the Watergate scandal. I quickly learned that Woodward’s partner, Carl Bernstein, had attended some of these parties, Before I had a chance to approach Carl I got a call from Detective Carl Shoffler, a DC cop and long time source. Shoffler said that a prominent Post reporter wanted to talk to me about a sensitive matter. Could I come down to Washington and meet with him.

The meeting took place inside the men’s room in the basement of the U.S. Federal Courthouse. The reporter was Tim Robinson and he was very nervous. “Woodward has me investigating Carl Bernstein because of the work you are doing on this Paisley story,” he said. “Can you help me on this?”

Carl, who I knew, said if I wrote this story he could end up on the wrong end of a custody suit with his ex-wife, Nora Ephron. So, after consulting with my editors, I left his name out of the coverage. I have always regretted that. The entire episode raised real questions about the entire “deep throat” episode. In 1988, while I was writing Widows, which dealt with the Paisley case, I called Woodward and he finally confirmed that he had authorized the investigation by Robinson into his former Watergate reporting partner. I tell this story because it shows how concerned Woodward was with anything that affected his reputation or his stories. Contrast that behavior to sitting on the Valerie Plame leak story for more than two years.

Miller and Woodward are celebrity reporters. They had been permitted by their employers to make deals with sources that are not the norm in this business. In the CIA leak case these two reporters entered into mutual protection agreements with sources who were trying to leak the name of a covert CIA operative. When that happened they should have wondered why this information was being leaked to them. That is a reporter’s natural reaction. A normal reporter would have begun asking what’s behind the effort to out this woman? What is the motive?


After some thought, a normal reporter would have gone to his or her editor and said this approach did not add up. We ought to get to the bottom of it. Instead Miller and Woodward both did something against all their reportorial training and instincts - they sat on the story and even misled colleagues about it. That is not the way a normal reporter behaves. But it is the way an intelligence or political operative behaves.

Has Woodward and Miller’s insider status finally put them over the edge? Or will Patrick Fitzgerald uncover something darker?

Copyright © 2003-2005 Public Education Center, Inc. All rights reserved.  Republished herein with the author's consent.


Joe Trento has spent more than 35 years as an investigative journalist, working with both print and broadcast outlets and writing extensively on national security issues. Before joining the National Security News Service in 1991, Trento worked for CNN's  Special Assignment Unit, the Wilmington News Journal, and prominent journalist Jack Anderson. Trento has received six Pulitzer nominations and is the author of five books, the most recent of which is The Secret History of the CIA. He regularly publishes a blog at

Posted  December 05, 2005

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