With the identity of the person still a mystery, and after considering much of the available information, it seems reasonable to make a few assumptions about the identity of Bob Woodward’s source.
The following are things that we seem to know:
A. The source is a man (Woodward slipped during his interview with Larry King, referring to the source as “he.”)
B. The source is a “top administration official” who had long conversations with Woodward for his book on the Bush White House.
C. The source hopes to remain anonymous even though he is already known to both Woodward and Fitzgerald.
D. The source was not particularly reluctant to go to Fitzgerald to tell the truth about revealing Plame’s identity to a reporter before Scooter Libby who was indicted and labeled as the first administration official known to have done so.
So what kind of person fits these parameters, and what kind of scenario might have played out that is consistent with these assumptions?
In my opinion, a very likely scenario is suggested by this article by Steve Clemons, who posits that someone may be feeding information to help Patrick Fitzgerald build his case.
Here’s my theory:
What if Woodward’s source was someone who was in the room when a conspiracy to attack Joseph Wilson was hatched? What if the source was someone who disagreed with what was going to happen, but was powerless to stop it without going public as a whistleblower, and who did not want to take on such a public role in order to make sure that the conspiracy was revealed? What would such a person do?
One option would be to casually leak the information to Woodward – the reporter in the best position to disclose the inner workings of the Bush White House, whose reporting had already brought down one corrupt administration, and who has a history of having kept a source anonymous for over 30 years. Besides, Woodward was busy writing his book so he would not likely be the one to make the name public, since numerous others were likely to do it first .
This scenario would also explain Woodward’s contention that the information was given to him “casually” and that it didn’t seem like a big deal . . . because it wasn’t given to Woodward as a part of the conspiracy. It may have been just a hint to get him involved in the story.
If the case were to come under legal scrutiny, such a person might eventually choose to secretly help a prosecutor - either by leaking information anonymously, or by working directly with the prosecutor under an agreement that he would not have to testify.
If such a person was Woodward’s source, a number of confusing circumstances would be explained about how the conversation with Woodward became known. Here is Woodward’s description of the interaction with the source, as reported by Time Magazine:
Woodward realized, given that the indictment stated that Libby disclosed the information to New York Times reporter Miller on June 23, that Libby was not the first official to talk about Wilson's wife to a reporter. Woodward himself had received the information earlier.
According to Woodward, that triggered a call to his source. "I said it was clear to me that the source had told me [about Wilson's wife] in mid-June," says Woodward, "and this person could check his or her records and see that it was mid-June. My source said he or she had no alternative but to go to the prosecutor. I said, “If you do, am I released?'", referring to the confidentiality agreement between the two. The source said yes, but only for purposes of discussing it with Fitzgerald, not for publication.
Woodward further described the source’s response in his interview with Larry King:
And the source in this case at this moment, it's a very interesting moment in all of this, said "I have to go to the prosecutor. I have to go to the prosecutor. I have to tell the truth."
Why would anyone be so quick to run to the prosecutor claiming to be the first to discuss Plame with a reporter, unless he was confident that he would not be charged with a crime? And how could he be so confident unless he knew he could reasonably claim that he revealed the name only to help expose the conspiracy, or unless he was already cooperating with the prosecutor and had to fake surprise to avoid tipping off Woodward? And why would anyone insist on anonymity after talking to Fitzgerald unless he was confident that he would not be charged or required to testify in a public trial?
I should note that when I first started working on this theory, the person I had in mind as Woodward’s source was Colin Powell. I was inspired by statements made by Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s former Chief of Staff, reported here and here. I was operating on the assumption that Wilkerson’s statements were likely similar to those Powell might make, if he were not so calculating and reserved in his demeanor.
However, I have also read persuasive arguments that it could not be Powell.
First of all, a spokesperson for Powell denied that he was Woodward’s source, as did many other administration officials at the time. However, if someone fitting the above profile were the source, why wouldn’t he deny it? If the primary goal was to remain anonymous, then why not try to throw off the scent, particularly if you thought that the denial would never be publicly disproved.
Second, I have read of Wilkerson's comments about a growing rift with Powell over his harsh criticism of the Bush administration. Again, if the goal is to remain anonymous, why not distance himself from Wilkerson's views - even if he agrees with them?
Finally, I have read a lot of disparaging comments about Powell's role in the run-up to the war, and how his actions make it very unlikely that he would do anything to oppose the Bush administration. While I agree with many of the criticisms of Powell, it is conceivable that he, unlike the rest of the Bush gang, would eventually feel some remorse. It is he who coined the so-called "Pottery Barn Rule" - If you break it, you own it! While the "Powell Doctrine" originally applied to war, it is conceivable that he would also apply it to the breaking of trust with the American people, and eventually feel that he owned the responsibility to do something about it.
Whew! If you are still with me, congratulations! Or perhaps condolences are more in order! Anyway, the beauty of this theory is that if I am right, we may never find out the identity of Woodward's source.
So, if 30 years from now, we are still speculating on the identity of "Deep Throat II," just remember - I told you so! It's Colin Powell!
Addendum: In a classic example of why it is never a good idea to sit on a potentially timely post, today's WAPO had an article containing the following statement that seems to debunk my theory:
In a Nov. 14 deposition, Woodward answered questions under oath from Fitzgerald about the mid-June 2003 conversation with his source. The source, whose identity has not been revealed, had testified much earlier in Fitzgerald's investigation but did not mention the conversation, said two sources familiar with the investigation.
Since I don't know who the "two sources familiar with the investigation" might be, or how they would know about what wasn't in the earlier testimony of Woodward's source, I still hold (perhaps stubbornly) the belief that Woodward's source is someone who is helping the prosecutor with his investigation, and who has told Fitz everything he knows. According to various theories I've seen, that could be Powell, or it might be Tenet, or Armitage. Or perhaps someone else. My bet is still on Powell!