Thursday, November 17, 2005

Will Woodward's Revelation Help Libby's Defense?

To say that Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's revelation that he received information about Valerie Plame's status as a covert CIA agent came out of the blue would be an understatement.  For I. Lewis Libby, the question is whether this information is helpful to his defense.  There has been speculation that Libby would work to undermine the credibility of Time reporter Matt Cooper and NBC media personality Tim  Russert by noting the barrage of information available about Plame at the time of his alleged disclosures.  Woodward's revelation that he received the information from an administration source may allow the defense to focus on the confusion surrounding the information leak, and raise questions whether there even was a leak or whether it was something of such wide knowledge that Libby would not have even paid attention to it as something about which he would later have to lie. 

To the "dedicated-but-overworked-public-servant" defense can be added the lack of any motive to lie, and perhaps even a question whether the lie was material.  Special Counsel Fitzgerald's indictment makes much of its timeline of Libby's acquisition of knowledge about Plame from government sources, but the fact that others leaked the information creates confusion that could allow the defense to argue that the prosecution has its facts wrong.  While the indictment concerns whether Libby lied, the focus remains on the leak, and Libby need only raise a reasonable doubt.

Woodward has indicated that he cannot reveal his source because of a confidentiality agreement.  If Libby wants to explore Woodward's knowledge of Plame, he may well run into the same privilege claim as the Special Prosecutor did with Matt Cooper and Judith Miller, but without the benefit of a threatened contempt to coerce disclosure.  An AP story (here) discusses Woodward's revelation. (ph)

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