Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The Times story on the Woodward/Post revelation.

And you thought cock fighting was illegal.

So it looks like the November 14th deadline Bill Frist set for a plan to pursue "phase two" of the senate Iraq intel investigation has come and gone. There's been progress apparently. But no resolution. No plan on looking into what happened in Doug Feith's office. And apparently no agreement from the majority as to whether the committee will actually be able to interview any of the key people in the administration. Roberts, Frist and Co. are still stonewalling for the White House.

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TPM Reader SB responds to my post below ...

I agree that under normal circumstances, Woodward would have had no obligation to reveal this info to the public. But the actual circumstances in this case are different. Woodward was about to publish (or had just published) a book purporting to give an accurate picture of the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. The fact that Woodward kept all of this secret under these circumstances just destroys his integrity as a journalist.

Woodward gives a strong impression that the CIA should bear a great deal, if not most, of the blame for the Iraq invasion in his oft repeated interview quoting George Tennet as saying “Slam Dunk” on the issue of WMDs in Iraq. The revelation about Woodward’s secret knowledge destroys Woodward’s credibility in my view because Woodward never did anything to correct the information in his book. The independent CIA investigation of the Iraq/Niger yellowcake story and Tennet’s repeated refusal to sanction the accuracy of the yellowcake story just doesn’t fit with the “Slam Dunk” picture. Now we know that Woodward had early inside information of the smear campaign against Wilson (and possibly the CIA). A credible journalist wouldn’t have kept this information concealed when the information tends to undercut information in the journalist’s just published book.

SB broadens out the picture from Woodward's public stance about the Fitzgerald investigation, which I note below. I'll give the matter more thought.

I just gave another close read to Bob Woodward's statement about his deposition in the Fitzgerald investigation. And I wanted to go back through the statement, the accompanying Post story and whatever else we might know to think through what, if anything, Woodward might have done wrong.

Let's start with the first fact. Woodward knew key information about the leak and was probably the first person to receive the leak. And yet this is the first we're hearing about it, more than two years later.

I can't see where there's anything wrong with this. Woodward was told something in a confidential conversation with a source. He didn't write an article based on it, as Bob Novak did. So I don't see where he needs to tell the public about the conversation. He could have chosen to write about the leak story itself, using the insight he gained as the target of one of the leaks, as Walter Pincus did. But I don't think he was under an obligation to do so.

Then there's the fact that Pat Fitzgerald didn't know about it until quite recently. I don't see where this is a problem either. Woodward was maintaining a confidence and I don't think he had any affirmative obligation or necessarily any right to step forward and tell the investigator what he knew. Whatever you think about Judy Miller, Matt Cooper fought Fitzgerald's investigation for some time -- and I don't know anyone who thinks Cooper got into any ethical jams in his part of this story. In his case, I think with all the other journalists, they got pulled in when Fitzgerald's investigation led him to them. None of them just came forward on their own, at least as far as I know.

Where he gets into trouble I think are on two points.

First, he didn't tell his editor, Len Downie, anything about this. Downie's legendary predecessor Ben Bradlee told Editor & Publisher today that he doesn't see anything wrong with that. "I don't see anything wrong with that. He doesn't have to disclose every goddamn thing he knows ... He's got his finger in a lot of pies ... Woodward never has 'no involvement' because he is who he is. He's always poking around the White House because he's always writing a book about the White House. So it doesn't surprise me that he knows a lot about that."

I really don't think that cuts it.

This isn't just any pie. This is a story that has embroiled Washington for more than two years, as much as a media and media ethics story as a legal and national security story. The Post's chief rival for the status of national political paper of record, The New York Times, has been involved in a debilitating entanglement with the case for more than a year. And one of its most renowned reporters has now, in effect, been fired, in large part, over her messy involvement in this case and her failure to come clean with her editors about the nature of that involvement.

This isn't just another pie Woodward had his finger in. Given the context and everything that surrounds this case, not telling Downie amounted to concealing it.

My big question is: did Downie really never ask? Seems hard to imagine. The Times asked their reporters. And Woodward would have been a very obvious person to ask.

Second, what he told the public. As I've said, Woodward had no obligation to discuss this publicly and in most respects probably no right. But he has been an aggressive critic of the investigation itself, challenging the premise that there was any underlying wrongdoing in this case. By becoming a partisan in the context of the leak case without revealing that he was at the center of it, really a party to it, he wasn't being honest with his audience. I don't see much way around that.

Now, his antipathy toward the investigation seems much easier to understand.

These are preliminary impressions. And I'd be eager to hear your views. I had intended to discuss this at a bit more length. But it's just been brought to my attention that a few minutes ago Howie Kurtz published an article in the Post in which Woodward apologizes to the Post. So I'm going to read that and follow up with more impressions later.

TPM Reader BB is confused ...

I confess to be completely bewildered with the ability of this administration to make statements that clearly contradict their actions without being completely laughed off the American and world stage.

Bush says we do not torture, that the scandal at Abu Graib was just a few bad apples, and doesn't even respond to the many other instances of prisoner abuse (including death) -- BUT he WILL veto a bill that bans torture of prisoners. We read articles about one and then articles about the other but most of the time only the columnists are there pointing out the transparent duplicty of it all. Why are elected Dems so silent? Why did it take McCain to make this an issue?

Bush can say these things with a straight face because that's the kind of guy he is, and the right-wing scream machine will back him in this because that's who they are -- but how the heck does the MSM reduce this complete nonsense to he-said/she-said when it's really a case of pathological deceit?

Good question.

If you haven't seen it already, definitely take a moment to check out the debate/exchange we have going on over at TPMCafe Book Club about America's history with political Islam. Bob Dreyfuss, Steve Clemons, Jane Arraf and John Stuart Blackton are discussing Bob's new book Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. It's a fascinating discussion.

Ahhh, the ghost of Brownies past.

From the Times: "New Jersey officials said yesterday that Bernard B. Kerik abused his position as New York City correction commissioner in the late 1990's by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from a construction company that he was helping to pursue business with the city. They say the company has long had ties to organized crime."

As I said earlier today we're going to try to put our research energies for the rest of this week into compiling a detailed list of White House deceptions and lies in the lead up to war, along with a White House mendacity taxonomy distinguishing all the different flavors or deception, mistatement, exaggeration and generalized bamboozlement.

We've already got in almost 150 tips from readers for our list. And clearly cataloging all this mumbojumbo and dishonesty is going to be a time-consuming task. But while we're at it I just can't help passing on some gems.

Dick Cheney ever try to tell people Saddam might be behind 9/11?

Hmm, let's see ....

Russert: Do you still believe there's no evidence that Iraq was involved in September 11?

Cheney: Well, what we now have that's developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that--it's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack. Now, what the purpose of that was, what transpired between them, we simply don't know at this point, but that's clearly an avenue that we want to pursue.

That's from Meet the Press on December 9th, 2001. And remember, this was a claim that was floated and then rapidly discredited by, among other things, evidence that Atta was in the US at the time of the alleged meeting in Prague. The Czechs themselves eventually gave up on it.

A year later, Cheney was back at it again on Russert's show, for a chat on September 8th, 2002 ...

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I want to be very careful about how I say this. I'm not here today to make a specific allegation that Iraq was somehow responsible for 9/11. I can't say that. On the other hand, since we did that interview, new information has come to light. And we spent time looking at that relationship between Iraq, on the one hand, and the al-Qaeda organization on the other. And there has been reporting that suggests that there have been a number of contacts over the years. We've seen in connection with the hijackers, of course, Mohamed Atta, who was the lead hijacker, did apparently travel to Prague on a number of occasions. And on at least one occasion, we have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center. The debates about, you know, was he there or wasn't he there, again, it's the intelligence business.

Mr. RUSSERT: What does the CIA say about that? Is it credible?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: It's credible. But, you know, I think a way to put it would be it's unconfirmed at this point. We've got...

Then in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News on January 9th, 2004 ...

On the separate issue, on the 9/11 question, we've never had confirmation one way or another. We did have reporting that was public, that came out shortly after the 9/11 attack, provided by the Czech government, suggesting there had been a meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker, and a man named al-Ani (Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani), who was an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague, at the embassy there, in April of '01, prior to the 9/11 attacks. It has never been -- we've never been able to collect any more information on that. That was the one that possibly tied the two together to 9/11.

Cheney just couldn't help spreading the Atta-in-Prague canard every chance he got and floating what were at best intentionally misleading claims about not being able to confirm one way or another whether Saddam was behind 9/11. Except, that is, when he denied saying anything about an Atta meeting in Prague. Or well ... let's go to Gloria Borger interviewing the veep in June 17th, 2004 ...

BORGER: Well, let's get to Mohamed Atta for a minute because you mentioned him as well. You have said in the past that it was, quote, "pretty well confirmed."

Vice Pres. CHENEY: No, I never said that.


Vice Pres. CHENEY: I never said that.

BORGER: I think that is...

Vice Pres. CHENEY: Absolutely not. What I said was the Czech intelligence service reported after 9/11 that Atta had been in Prague on April 9 of 2001, where he allegedly met with an Iraqi intelligence official. We have never been able to confirm that nor have we been able to knock it down, we just don't know.

BORGER: Well, this report says it didn't happen.

Vice Pres. CHENEY: No, this report says they haven't found any evidence.

BORGER: That it happened.

Vice Pres. CHENEY: Right.

BORGER: But you haven't found the evidence that it happened either, have you?

Vice Pres. CHENEY: No. All we have is that one report from the Czechs. We just don't know.

Did Dick Cheney ever say anything misleading about Saddam and al Qaida and 9/11, anything he knew wasn't true? Face it. It's not even close. Really, it's an indictment of the state of our public discourse that it's even much of a debate at this late moment. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Like I said a couple days ago, let's unpack all the transcripts. Get it all out there. What everybody and anybody said. These guys are just as guilty as sin.