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The Situation Room

Bob Woodward Says Official Leaked Name Two Years Ago; Sam Alito Controversy; Oil Execs May Be Part Of Cheney Task Force; Interview With Leonard Downie

Aired November 16, 2005 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Happening now, a pioneer of investigative journalism under scrutiny in the CIA leak case. What did Bob Woodward tell the special prosecutor? Why are we only learning about his link to the leak now? I'll ask the executive editor of the "Washington Post" in his first television interview since the story broke.

Also this hour, some big oil executives called on the carpet. A new report says they met in secret with Vice President Cheney's energy task force. Did they lie to Congress about this?

And the Senate's top Democrat sounding a new warning about the president's Supreme Court nominee. Harry Reid says thinks he knows why conservatives are popping their corks over Samuel Alito.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

He's one half of the team that exposed Watergate. This hour, Bob Woodward at the center ever a new Washington controversy. He's revealed that he testified in the CIA leak investigation on Monday, and that a senior Bush administration official told him about Valerie Plame Wilson's role at the CIA some two years ago.

Now, this afternoon, Woodward is apologizing to his newspaper, the "Washington Post," for withholding that information all this time.

Let's get the specific details. Our Justice correspondent Kelli Arena standing by. Kelli?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Bob Woodward certainly knows how to keep a secret, this we know. He says he only testified after his source came forward and told the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, about a conversation that he had with Woodward in mid-June of 2003. It's not clear why that source decided to speak now, and Woodward will not publicly identify that person.

In a statement, Woodward said that Fitzgerald, "Asked for my impression about the context in which Mrs. Wilson was mentioned. I testified that the reference seemed to me to be casual and offhand, that it did not appear to me to be either classified or sensitive."

Now, this disclosure is important, Wolf, because it means that Lewis Libby, the vice president's former deputy chief of staff, who was recently indicted, was not the first person to talk to the press about Plame, as Fitzgerald contended. Libby's lawyer called this development a bombshell. The obvious question at this point is -- was the source Karl Rove?

Well, we know he's still under investigation, and the answer, according to his spokesman, is, no.

So, Wolf, we've got more questions and an investigation that is still very active.

BLITZER: Lots of questions still unanswered, Kelli. Thank you very much. We're going to spend a lot of time on this story this hour. Bob Woodward's disclosure raising these questions about the news media's coverage, journalistic ethics.

I'll ask several of these questions to the "Washington Post" executive editor, Leonard Downey. He's going to be joining us live here this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. This story already getting tons of feedback online.

Let's check in with our internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. What are you picking up, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: This story absolutely exploding in the blogs today. Some of the main questions out there, the moderate voice, asking, why now? Why has the source come forward just recently? Just One Minute, Tom Maguire, a conservative saying, "What does this mean for the Fitzgerald investigation? What else did Fitzgerald not know?"

And lots of people like blogger, Atrias at Eschaton (ph) digging into transcripts of past interviews that Woodward has given on CNN and other media outlets. Also questions for the "Washington Post," Josh Marshall asking today, did Leonard Downey not ask Bob Woodward if he was involved? And I know you'll be speaking to Mr. Downey later in the hour.

BLITZER: Thanks. Much more on this story coming up this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's move on to other important news we're following.

The Senate's top Democrat now raising some new red flags about the Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. In going after Alito, Harry Reid also took a direct swipe at what he calls the extreme right wing.

Let's get to our congressional correspondent Ed Henry who's covering the story.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Reid came out swinging declaring that he has significant concerns about this nomination, citing this 1985 memo in which Judge Alito as a young lawyer says he does not believe the Constitution guarantees a right to abortion. Reid says this is why conservatives have been popping champagne corks ever since Harriet Miers got dumped. But a much different sense from a key moderate Republican. Senator Olympia Snow, who supports abortion rights, grilled Judge Alito about that today in a one-on-one meeting. She came out and sounded relatively satisfied for now with the Judge Alito's answer, which is that basically, regardless of his personal views on abortion, he is somebody who respects legal precedent.

Take a listen to the differing views here from Senator Reid, Senator Snow.


SEN HARRY REID, (D-NV) MINORITY LEADER: We don't have to guess whether Judge Alito's description of himself in that memo would predict what kind of a judge he would be. For the past 15 years, Judge Alito has been one of the most conservative judges in country. Some would say extreme.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (D) MAINE: I think that's -- that's the issue. Whether or not one comes pre-determined to find a way to undo a particular law, and I think that's the issue with Roe v. Wade, and at this point, he is not expressed any, you know -- anything that would suggest that he would find a way. But the question is, whether or not he's going to give due deference to precedent. That's something we'll all have to measure.


HENRY: One reason it would be hard for Senator Reid to launch a filibuster over this nomination, based solely on abortion, is the fact that the Democratic leader's position on the issue is actually pretty similar to Judge Alito's. Senator Reid is personally opposed to abortion but said that he would not push to overturn Roe v. Wade.

That's why, if in fact Democrats launched a filibuster, it would not be based on abortion alone. It would be a much broader filibuster. They would try to launch on several issues under the umbrella of privacy rights. For the record, Senator Reid and other Democrats insisting any talk of the filibuster, way too early.


BLITZER: Ed Henry reporting from Capitol Hill. Thanks very much. Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for his opportunity. Jack, what are you working on?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: One of the things we're working on is this ongoing mystery about where you were yesterday?

BLITZER: I was giving a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

CAFFERTY: Oh. All right. Good. That's a great school.

BLITZER: Great school, about a thousand students showed up.

CAFFERTY: You were missed. Do you plan to be here in THE SITUATION ROOM for the rest of this week?

BLITZER: Yes. I'll be here --

CAFFERTY: I mean, if you're not going to be here, I won't be here either. It's not the same.

BLITZER: I'll be here the rest of the week. But I'm entitled once in a while to take a day off, too.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely. I wouldn't begrudge of you that at all. John King did a good job.

BLITZER: He did an excellent job.

CAFFERTY: All right. Here we go. A White House document indicates that oil company executives met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force back in 2001. Front page story in the "Washington Post" said claims that officials from Exxon, Conoco, Shell and BP met with in the White House with Cheney aides working on energy policy. Last week on Capitol Hill, the CEOs of those oil companies said -- never happened.


SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D) NEW JERSEY: I asked the big oil CEOs last week at our hearing whether their companies had been part of Mr. Cheney's secret energy task force. They -- with one exception -- they answered me directly, saying no. It's bad enough to hide the truth from the American people, but it's illegal to make false statements to Congress whether you've raised your right hand or you haven't.

CAFFERTY: Environmentalists have complained that they were shut out of those energy meetings while corporate interests were represented. The vice president's office told the "Washington Post" the courts have upheld the constitutional right of the president and the vice president to gather information in private.

So here's the question. Does who attended those energy meetings in 2001 really matter anymore? Email us at Or go to

It doesn't surprise me that people with a background in the oil business, i.e. Cheney and Bush, would consult with people in the oil business about energy policy and not care to reveal the secrets of that. I don't think we need another investigation of this. The courts have said they were in the right to do it. There are probably other issues for people like Lautenberg and the other Democrats where they can get better traction -- the CIA leak investigation being paramount among those. We'll see what the viewers think.

BLITZER: I suppose though, Jack, whenever you use Cheney and oil in the same sentence, you're going to get a lot of reaction.

CAFFERTY: Tends to happen. It's a hot button situation here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Appropriately enough, Jack. We'll get back with you soon.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the journalist Bob Woodward had a scoop and kept it from his own newspaper. I'll ask the "Washington Post" executive editor, Len Downey, about Woodward's newly revealed testimony in the CIA leak case and the fallout.

Also coming up, newly confirmed cases of bird flu spreading to humans. The story and the uproar online.

And there's a new report on a danger packed inside airplanes. We're on the "Security Watch", here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Lewis Scooter Libby's lawyer says the CIA leak indictment against his client has been undermined by new disclosures from the journalist Bob Woodward.

As we've been reporting, Woodward now said he learned of the identity of the CIA analyst Valerie Plame Wilson from an unnamed Bush administration official nearly a month before that information was disclosed in a published report.

To discuss this, the legal ramifications of what we're learning now, we're joined by former federal prosecutor Victoria Toensing. Vicky, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: How does this disclosure by Bob Woodward affect the case that the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald has presented against Scooter Libby?

TOENSING: Well, if you wake up this morning and you're Scooter Libby's defense attorney, you know there's a lot more pretrial motions you're going to bring forward.

For example, you want to know how much more did Patrick Fitzgerald, who had a team of lawyers and for two years investigated this relatively simple factual case -- if he didn't know this crucial fact, then what else did he not know and what else did he not do?

For example -- and here's a prime question -- in the indictment, Fitzgerald says that when the vice president's office in June 2003 asked for information about the Wilson trip, it came over as classified documents. It was classified information.

Why is it that the CIA is allowing Joe Wilson to write about this trip in the "New York Times" at the same time the CIA's telling the vice president it's classified? And that goes to the heart of whether the word classified even ought to be in the indictment.

BLITZER: But he was not indicted, Scooter Libby, on the initial underlying charge, the 1982 law that you helped write when you were in the Justice Department.

TOENSING: In the Senate.

BLITZER: In the Senate at the time. What he is being indicted on, was lying to the grand jury, making false statements, obstructing justice. How does this affect any of those five counts against him?

TOENSING: Well, here's where there's a problem, Wolf.

BLITZER: How did that affect those five counts?

TOENSING: No, but I'm going to tell you what the problem is for the prosecutor's case. And that is, you need to tell a jury why this person lied. I mean, lying should help you get out of something. But if Scooter Libby had agreed with Tim Russert and Matt Cooper, it wouldn't have meant any violation of any law. So there's no motive there for him to tell anything but what he actually remembered.

Now look at this story today. Bob Woodward remembers telling Walter Pincus about Valerie Plame.

BLITZER: A reporter at the "Washington Post."

TOENSING: And Walter Pincus says, he doesn't recall any such conversation. Should Walter Pincus be indicted? That's basically the kind of case against Scooter Libby.

BLITZER: Well, let's be clear. No one is accusing Bob Woodward or Walter Pincus, or any journalist of doing any illegal. No one is suggesting. They may have, not necessarily done things the way that the journalistic community would have liked, maybe their readers or their editors, but no one is suggesting that Bob Woodward did anything illegal.

TOENSING: Wolf, I'm not making that argument. This is a perjury argument that I'm making. I'm saying people have different memories in all good faith. Bob Woodward said what he remembered. Walter Pincus said what he remembered.

Now, that goes to the heart of this perjury case, because Scooter Libby says what he remembers. Tim Russert says what he remembers. Why would a prosecutor, without much more evidence, want to indict on that? I'm giving you a parallel situation.

BLITZER: It's a fair statement. Let's talk about this, because this perked my interest, my curiosity when I read the story about Bob Woodward this morning in the "Washington Post."

Scooter Libby is indicted on October 28. On November 3, a few days later, some official, an administration official, comes to the prosecutor and says, I have new information that I want to share with you, namely, a discussion he had with Bob Woodward two years earlier. Why would that official? What does it say to you that an official on November 3, a few days after the indictment, would then go and volunteer new information to the prosecutors? TOENSING: I can't imagine. I can't speak for -- I have no idea who this person is or what this person's motives are. But sometimes people think things are going to go away. Or, as in the case of a certain former general who looked at the indictment and said, wait a minute, Ed Wilson told me a year ago that his wife was with the CIA. Until people really see the indictment and focus on what the prosecutor is saying, there many not be any reason to come forward.

BLITZER: And there's no way to judge whether this information is going to result in more indictments?

TOENSING: We have no idea. It doesn't look like it. But, I think this administration official and the prosecutor ought to reveal who it is. It's a tragic thing to keep this kind of pressure over a government official's life, and keep something that's going to be made public at some point anyway, if there's a trial.

BLITZER: Victoria Toensing, thanks very much for joining us.

Coming up, did the journalist and author Bob Woodward let down the "Washington Post"? I'll ask the newspaper's executive editor, Len Downie, about Woodward's CIA leak case bombshell.

And next, a journalist in the spotlight for better reasons. Ted Koppel talks to me about the state of TV news, as he steps down from the anchor chair on "Nightline."

Much more, coming up.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Zain Verjee, joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news. Hi, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. Welcome back.

While airline passengers and their luggage now receive close scrutiny from security screeners, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, says better ways must be found to check cargo. Last year, an estimated 23 billion pounds of air cargo was transported within the United States, a quarter of it on passenger planes. The GAO says only a very small percentage is inspected and says federal officials must take stock of security weaknesses.

The Senate today passed a measure that would make companies live up to the promises they make in their pension plans. The federal agency that ensures the private pensions of millions of American workers is $22 billion in the red, in part because bankrupt airlines have been dumping their pension liabilities. The legislation, now moving to the House, would essentially require companies with pensions to set aside more money for their retirees and pay higher premiums to the agency.

The Senate Banking Committee has endorsed Ben Bernanke as the next Federal Reserve chairman, replacing Alan Greenspan, who's retiring. The nomination now heads to the full Senate. Speaking to the committee yesterday, Bernanke pledged to continue Greenspan's inflation pricing policy, while saying that he's committed to strong economic growth.

The World Health Organization has confirmed two human cases of bird flu in China, including a female poultry worker who died from the H5N1 strain. The WHO also confirmed the death of a 9-year-old boy who fell ill last month. Now, it can't confirm if his sister, who also died, succumbed to the virus because her body has already been cremated. China's health ministry does count her, though, as a bird flu victim.


BLITZER: All right, Zain, thanks very much.

Let's get some more now on those human cases of bird flu. For that, we'll bring in our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner. Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT: The World Health Organization, Wolf, is continuing to keep track of these cases online. And what it has for you, is this chart it's put together. This is a where we are in terms of pandemic threat chart. Looks a lot like a Homeland Security terror threat chart.

Actually, where we are right now is at a three. If you're curious to know what that's about, there's an entire PDF file online, their preparedness plan from the World Health Organization. Tells you a little bit about it.

Generally, basically what it is right now at a phase three, is human infection with a new subtype, but no human to human transmission, or if in very, very rare cases, some possibility of human transmission in very close contact. Nothing to worry about at this point.

The other thing that it contains in that PDF is preparedness. And what it's doing, is the World Health Organization is essentially telling its member states how to be prepared, early detection, early action, that sort of thing. That's what nations really need to do at this point.

You can go online yourself, again, and check out this global influenza preparedness plan. An interesting thing to note from the chart, the differences between the three, the four, and the five, what they do is assess different risk levels.

There are risk levels of pandemic, how fast it travels, geographic location, what sort of genes we're talking about. There's really very small, definitive differences and this is what the World Health Administration keeps track of.


BLITZER: All right, Jacki. Thank you very much. After 26 years at the helm of ABC's "Nightline," the anchor Ted Koppel of is poised to step down next week. Today I sat down with him for a wide-ranging interview. Among the many topics we discussed, TV news.


BLITZER: Are you satisfied, are you happy, with the state of television journalism in the United States today?

TED KOPPEL, ABC NEWS: Oh, hell no. But it's -- you know, having said that, you know, as you've pointed out, I joined ABC Television 42 years ago. Actually, I joined ABC radio back then, but when I joined ABC in 1963, you know, ABC was fifth among three networks and television news in those days was so bad and so simple and so underwhelming in so many different ways that to compare the television of the early '60s to the television of today, things are terrific.

I would say that today, television news is as good as it's ever been, and as bad as it's been. And the trick is to get rid of the bad and keep the good.


BLITZER: Coming up, much more of my interview coming with Ted Koppel.

Coming up next hour, in the full interview we'll be seeing tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern here in THE SITUATION ROOM, and at that time, we'll bring on a surprise guest with Ted that you won't want to miss. That's coming up, 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, Bob Woodward knows a thing or two about controversy in Washington. Did the famed journalist who made a name for himself during Watergate drop the ball in the CNN probe? I'll ask his boss over at the "Washington Post" about the new revelations about Bob Woodward's role.

And the Iraq battle lines are drawn. Are more Republicans taking sides against the president? War, politics and the White House, in our "Strategy Session." Stay with us.



The CIA leak investigation has been playing out for more than two years. In all that time, journalist Bob Woodward apparently never let on that he had a scoop, that he had gotten an early heads up from the Bush administration official about Valerie Plame-Wilson's role over at the CIA.

That information finally was revealed in the "Washington Post" today. But Woodward denied having any inside knowledge during an appearance on CNN's LARRY KING LIVE last month. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker. I'm sorry. In fact, I mean, this tells you something about what's the atmosphere here. I got a call from somebody in the CIA saying he got a call from the best "New York Times" reporter on this, saying that I supposedly have a bombshell.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: You were going to go to do it tonight, right?

WOODWARD: Finally this when -- that I was going to do tonight or in the paper. Finally, Len Downie, who's the editor of the "Washington Post" called me and said I hear you have a bombshell. Would you let me in on it?

KING: So, now the rumors are about you!

WOODWARD: And I said, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I don't.


BLITZER: We're joined now by the executive editor of the "Washington Post," Len Downie, in his first television interview since this Woodward story broke today. Len, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: You just heard that exchange. Did -- what did he say to you when you called him about that so-called bombshell?

DOWNIE: Well, he did not have a bombshell in the sense of a story, Wolf. We did not have a story to put in the "Post." That exchange took place on television after he had first told me in late October about the fact that he had had this conversation back in June of 2003.

It was a very brief part of a much longer interview that Bob was conducting for his book with a source that he had conducted many interviews with for his book. And at the time, he doesn't think if was very important. And it was a king of byplay that wasn't even part of the interview that he was conducting.

So he didn't have a bombshell that he could put in the newspaper when he was talking on television recently. But what he should have done during the intervening time after June of 2003 was still tell me that he'd had this discussion with this source.

I'm not sure we could have done anything with it because it was a confidential conversation with a confidential source. I'm not sure we could have storified it any way. But it's a conversation that we should have had so we could make a decision about how to proceed. And as a result of the conversations we've had since then, Bob has acknowledged today that he made a mistake in not telling me about it sooner. He's apologized to me and to the newspaper. And we're going to move along from here now and work on other reporting of his in the future.

BLITZER: What made him come forward and finally tell you, what, some two years after the fact?

DOWNIE: It was getting near the time when the grand jury was about to expire. We were all expecting that the special prosecutor was going to take some kind of action. And the events that were going on reminded Bob that probably he should tell me about this.

BLITZER: Why didn't you immediately inform your readers, when he told you, yes, he had learned about this early on, long before, you know, Bob Novak wrote his column in July of 2003? Why not, without revealing the source, at least tell your readers what's going on?

DOWNIE: Because the source didn't allow us to. The source was insisting on maintaining the confidentiality of this particular part of his interviews with Bob and the rest of these interviews with Bob, for that matter. So we didn't have something we could report at that time.

BLITZER: But let me interrupt for a second.


BLITZER: You could have revealed to your readers that an unnamed source had told Bob Woodward about this two years earlier without naming the source.

DOWNIE: At that point, once Bob had told me about this, then a chain of events took place that led to his being asked by the special prosecutor to testify in a deposition, which Bob did on Monday. And we then set about trying to get releases from sources for the purposes of that testimony, and also for the purposes of our journalism. And two of those sources released us from that. We've now named them, one in the newspaper today, one in the newspaper tomorrow. But this particular source still had not released us from that pledge, so we were not able to report that.

BLITZER: There were some days, though, that you could have. You're saying that this happened before October 28, the day the grand jury expired. That was the day that Scooter Libby was indicted. He came to you a few days earlier. It wasn't until November 3 that this source came to the prosecutor, to Patrick Fitzgerald and said, I did have a conversation with Bob Woodward. So there was a period of a week, at least, I'm guessing, that this information could have been disclosed.

DOWNIE: During which time we were still under the confidentiality pledge, as we are as I sit here talking to you right now. That this is a confidential source who does not want us to report on this information. And we're still unable to. We must maintain the sanctity of these source relationships.

BLITZER: He says in a statement, Bob Woodward, "I apologize because I should have told him," referring to you, "about this much sooner. I explained in detail that I was trying to protect my sources. That's job number one in a case like this. I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets. I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed." Does he owe, or do you owe, the readers of the "Washington Post" an apology?

DOWNIE: No. Bob owed me and the newspaper an apology for not telling me, but if he had told me, I don't know what we would have been able to publish in the newspaper because of the confidential agreement under which this was stated. And we still aren't able to publish the details.

We're eager to. We're eager to be freed from that pledge. We are publishing everything that we know about his encounters with the other two sources in which he did not claim Mrs. Wilson's the name did not come up. But we're still under an obligation to protect the confidentiality of this source and the information that this source supplied.

We've asked to be freed from that pledge. We have not been. We must, as Bob said in the quote that you just gave me -- the sanctity of these pledges of confidentiality are essential to the kind of reporting that Bob does, the kind of reporters that's kept our readers so well informed for many years now, over three decades, in which Bob has revealed the inner workings of what's going on in many governments, broken many important stories, beginning with Watergate, continuing on through 9/11, would not be possible without this source relationship and without him keeping his promises.

He kept his promise about Deep Throat for three decades, even to the point that somebody else revealed that information, and Bob was unable to. And that those types of promises, we're going to have to continue to keep.

BLITZER: The thought that Bob Woodward, having kept the Deep Throat source secret for so many decades, actually goes forward and talks about sources before a prosecutor -- that thought, in and of itself, is pretty shocking. But you say two of the sources have been released. He spoke with three administration officials. Now, one of them was, what, the White House chief of staff?

DOWNIE: Yes, the White House chief of staff Andy Card today said that we are free to report on this conversation that Woodward testified about. I have to go back to correct something you just said, Wolf. You said that after keeping the secret about Deep Throat for all these years he then gave this deposition to the special prosecutor.

He did so only after all three sources, including the source's name we can't divulge in the newspaper, released him from his pledge of confidentiality for the purposes of that deposition. So he was not violating the source relationship in giving that deposition. Otherwise, he wouldn't have done so.

BLITZER: What was the nature of the conversation with the White House chief of staff, Andy Card? DOWNIE: This did not come up. It was an incidental conversation about something else, and the special prosecutor merely wanted to know from Bob, did the subject of Valerie Plame come up, and Bob said no. BLITZER: Who is the second official you're about to name in the "Washington Post"?

DOWNIE: That is Andy Card. Today we already named Libby and discussed Bob's testimony about his conversation with Libby in which Bob also does not remember Valerie Plame coming up. And as he searched through his notes, did not see any notes that he had taken about Valerie Plame being named by Mr. Libby.

BLITZER: And so the third source, the one who still doesn't want his or her name to be made public, Bob did discuss the conversation with this third still-unnamed source in detail with the special prosecutor?

DOWNIE: Yes, because the source gave Bob permission to discuss this with the special prosecutor, but not permission to write about it in the "Post."

BLITZER: Can you report, can Bob report, or the "Washington Post" report, the nature of this conversation with this third unidentified source without violating any kind of ground rules? Now that he's discussed it in a deposition that will be presented, presumably, to a grand jury?

DOWNIE: No. That secret testimony will be presented secretly to the grand jury. We must still maintain this pledge to our source. If you recall, much earlier in the investigation, another one of our reporters, Walter Pincus, testified in a deposition also, with permission of the source, about a conversation which turns out that Mrs. Wilson didn't come up.

But nevertheless, that source gave permission for Walter to testify, but not permission for Walter to write about the details of the conversation or identify the source, and we still haven't. It is sacred at this newspaper, as it is at most newspapers, and I assume at your network also, to not reveal the names and contents of conversations unless we're given permission to do so by our confidential sources.

BLITZER: Are you angry at Bob Woodward?

DOWNIE: No. He made a mistake, he apologized for it. I've asked him to improve his communications with me about work he's doing on his books that could produce things for the newspaper. He's promised to do so. We're going to move ahead, now.

BLITZER: And so unlike Judy Miller, whose career at the "New York Times" is over with, you expect Bob Woodward to be at the "Washington Post" for a long time to come?

DOWNIE: Oh, yes. I certainly do. This is not an analogous case at all.

BLITZER: Len Downie, thanks very much for joining us.

DOWNIE: You're welcome. BLITZER: And coming up, we'll talk more about Bob Woodward's role in the CIA leak case. Howard Kurtz, himself at the "Washington Post." the media critic and the host of CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES, he'll be joining us for more.

Up next in our "Strategy Session", how might this new revelation from Bob Woodward figure into the actual investigation of who looked Valerie Plame's name? Much more coming up.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: In today's "Strategy Session", the Senate wants the Bush administration to define its exit strategy for the Iraq war. Meanwhile, Bob Woodward of the "Washington Post," as we've been reporting, is now figuring somehow into the investigation into the leak of the CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to the news media.

With me, our two CNN political analysts, Paul Begala, the Democratic strategist; Bay Buchanan is president of American Cause. Thanks very much, guys, for joining us. Let's start off with the war of words on Iraq, then we'll move on to Bob Woodward.

Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, says this, quoted in the "Washington Post": "To question your government is not unpatriotic. To not question your government is unpatriotic. America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices."

He says this in the aftermath of the president of the United States, and tonight, I expect to hear from the vice president of the United States, strong words saying those who question this policy are undermining the troops and encouraging the terrorists.

BAY BUCHANAN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CAUSE: You know, I think you should be careful exactly what the president said. I watched what he said the other night, and it was clear to me that he welcomed constructive criticism, that he expects Americans to debate issues, to challenge the president on his policies, to disagree with him.

The problem was that if you're making up information with the sole purpose to undermine the president, his integrity as commander in chief, for instance, that is where you cross the line. And I think the president has a point.

BLITZER: Do you think Bay has a point?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. The president's integrity as commander-in-chief was undermined when he told us things that weren't true to lead us into war. Now he's got a strategy of attacking the Democrats.

People are very upset with the president. A majority of Americans think he lied to us about this war. And by the way, a majority of them would impeach him if he did that. So he says, I'm going to attack the Democrats. He goes and gives a speech at Elmendorf Air Force Base on his way out of the country. Bang, bang, attacks the Democrats.

Now, a leading Republican senator, a war hero at that, says no. It completely undermines the White House strategy because no Chuck Hagel, a conservative Republican, says, no, we're allowed to criticize. And he's giving cover for all the Democrats who are criticizing. The president's strategy is blown. He can no longer say this is a partisan-based attack on his war policy, because it's not.

BLITZER: There are Republicans who are critical as well, as you know, Bay.

BUCHANAN: Absolutely, I'm related to one. So I'm very well aware of that. But the issue is, should we have gone to war or shouldn't we have? And those are legitimate issues. What should we do from here? Do we agree with the president? Should we stay the course or not? Legitimate.

But what Paul just said is, the problem with the president and his integrity is he lied to us to get us into war. That is a false statement. He had information that was given to him that he considered good, solid intelligence. The same intelligence Bill Clinton said that he had. And so he used that information, which was faulty, but he did not lie. He used information that he thought was legitimate and he moved ahead accordingly.

BLITZER: Because on that point, Bob Woodward -- we've been talking a lot about him today -- in his book says when Bush asked George Tenet, the then-CIA director, are you sure about this, according to the book, it's a slam dunk, Mr. President, there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So did George Tenet lie to the president?

BEGALA: The president himself had doubts. He didn't share those doubts with the American people. He told the Congress that they had sources who were saying that al Qaeda was being trained in chemical warfare in Iraq. He did not tell the Congress that his intelligence community thought those sources were wrong. That's lying.

And what you say and what you fail to say, the president left out information that caused doubts in his own heart and mind. He was so eager to bull over (ph) the Congress right before an election into voting for a war, I think the fact that Woodward points out that he had doubts is proof that he mislead the country because he didn't share those doubts with us.

BLITZER: Here's what Lindsey Graham is quoted in the "New York Times" as saying today -- he's a Republican senator from South Carolina -- "I think it, the proposal about withdrawal, if will you, from Iraq, speaks to a bit of nervousness about public perception of how the war is going in terms of the '06 elections." In other words, Republicans are nervous right now about next year's mid-term elections.

BUCHANAN: You know, Wolf, I would agree that if the polls weren't so bad on Iraq, and if we weren't facing an election year, we probably wouldn't have seen what happened in the Senate. However, I will say, also, it should have happened. They have oversight. They have responsibility to make certain the information's coming. They are the representatives of the American people. This is their job.

I think it's a good thing that we are going to have reports from the president, and I think the president should do it more often, and he should go right to the American people.

BLITZER: We're quickly running out of time, but I want to get into this whole Bob Woodward story today in the "Washington Post" that's sort of fascinating a lot us. Patrick Fitzgerald, in Bob Woodward's statement, Bob Woodward says this: "Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, asked for my impression about the context in which Mrs. Wilson was mentioned. I testified that the reference seemed to me to be casual and offhand and that it did not appear to me to be either classified or sensitive." Paul, what's your take on this latest development?

BEGALA: First off, I thought your interview with Len Downie was fascinating. Here's a journalist, Downie, who's supposed to be telling us the truth. And there was more obfuscating -- you couldn't pull a fact out of him with a John Deere tractor. Just tell us who was spreading the name. Now, you got out of him that Andy Card, the chief of staff, was one of them. That's big news. So now we know...

BLITZER: He didn't say Andy Card was spreading the name. He said that Woodward had a conversation around that time with Andy Card.


BLITZER: The third official who gave him the name, apparently, or the information to begin with, we don't know who that official is.

BEGALA: First off, White House officials don't have casual conversations with Bob Woodward about war. He's working on a book, he's got 18 pages of questions. You know, I've been interviewed by Bob for his books. He is the best in the business, but it ain't casual. It is very deliberate, very formal.

The White House had a strategy, across the White House, apparently. The chief of staff, the vice president's chief of staff, Karl Rove, to trash Joe Wilson, even if that included outing his wife as a CIA agent. And that's what they did.

BUCHANAN: You know, I think Bob Woodward, I don't know why he would lie at this stage about his relationship. I think he's intelligent enough...

BEGALA: I'm not accusing him of that.

BUCHANAN: He said casual, he said there was no appearance of any effort to push this name. It was very relaxed, and I suggest that there's no real harm being done in that case.

BLITZER: All right. Well, we're going to talk a lot more about this, but not with the two of you because we're out of time. Thanks, Paul and Bay, very much. Up next, on the Iraq war strategy, Republicans are questioning Republicans, and some Democrats are even at odds over how best to question the mission. I'll interview the Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. That's coming up.

Also, big oil. The industry is already posting big profits. Now, reports of major access inside the White House. As oil consumers, what do you think of that? Jack Cafferty has your email.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: The full interview with Ted Koppel tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's getting ready to step down as the anchor of "Nightline." Ted joins us tonight. You'll want to stick around for that. 7:00 p.m. Eastern in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's stick around for Zain Verjee. She's joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news.

Ted Koppel, Zain Verjee, I said it in the same breath, Zain.

VERJEE: Ted Koppel, Zain Verjee. I'm trying.

Wolf, in Iraq, a leading Sunni political party is calling for an international investigation after more than 160 detainees were found crowded in a building controlled by the country's interior ministry. The Iraqi Islamic Party says that all the detainees were Sunnis and the goal was to marginalize them before next month's election. Iraq's deputy interior minister calls that allegation, quote, "nonsense," and says the detainees came from all sects. Officials acknowledge that many of the detainees showed signs of torture.

Five U.S. Marines were killed today in the ongoing Operation Steel Curtain in western Iraq near the Syrian border. According to the U.S. Military, five Marines were in an exchange of fire in an Iraqi town in that area. Operation Steel Curtain hopes to root out insurgents in northwestern Iraq.

Back here in the United States, the woman accused of being the so-called cell phone bank robber was arraigned today on state charges in Virginia and ordered held without bail. According to an affidavit, Candice Rose Martinez has admitted to recently robbing four banks in Virginia. Her boyfriend is accused of driving the getaway car in the robberies. The alleged suspect casually chatted on the cell phone during the bank heists.

Six Japanese tourists are said to be fine today after a high ride above Las Vegas. The tourists were stranded 900 feet above the Vegas strip for about 90 minutes when the power went out on the X-Scream ride. After being pulled down, the tourists were taken to the hospital for observation. But, Wolf, no injuries reported for them.

BLITZER: Thanks God for that. All right, Jack. Jack Cafferty with us, Zain, as well as he always is. Jack, you want to weigh in?

CAFFERTY: You know, if they periodically just turn that ride off for a few minutes at night, it always makes the newspapers all across the country. It's a pretty cheap way to promote the ride, don't you think?

BLITZER: I would think.

CAFFERTY: Can I ask a dumb question?

BLITZER: Please.

CAFFERTY: What does this Bob Woodward thing have to do with anything? What does the mood of the person who told him the identity of Valerie Plame have to do with whether or not it's legal to reveal her identity? And what does any of this have to do with the Scooter Libby indictment? He was indicted for perjury and for obstruction of justice, for lying. I'm having trouble with this.

BLITZER: It sounds like a good question. You'll want to ask our viewers to weigh in on it.

CAFFERTY: I was hoping you might answer it for me.

BLITZER: I don't have enough time because we're almost out of time.

CAFFERTY: All right. A White House document indicates oil company executives met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001. "Washington Post" reported today officials from Exxon, Conoco, Shell, and BP met in the White House with Cheney aides working on energy policy. But last week on Capitol Hill, the CEOs of those same oil companies said didn't happen, they didn't participate in those meetings.

The question is this. Does who attended the energy meetings in 2001 really matter anymore?

Randy writes in Allen, Texas: "It doesn't matter one iota whether or not this or that oil firm met with the White House. When will the Democrats realize they lost the election? When will they realize that their no-to-everything-Republican attitude is counterproductive to their future efforts of getting their candidates elected?"

Scott in Arlington, Virginia: "Whom did you expect the VP's energy task force to consult with? Fry cooks, bankers, hot dog vendors? Of course they met with the big oil company chieftains. They were looking for expert advice, so they called in the experts. The real scandal would be if they didn't consult with them."

Larry in Modesto: "So now we know why the oil execs didn't want to raise their right hands. Can't this administration tell the truth about anything? Bringing back integrity one indictment at a time."

C in Lawrence, Kansas: "In formulating energy policy, it was the input of those who did not attend the meetings that mattered. Environmentalists, conservationists, consumer representatives, and those promoting alternative energy sources were ignored. Big oil was declared the winner, and the rest of us losers can continue to pay up at the gas pump."

And finally, Dave in California: "The 2001 energy meetings matter in the same way the 2001 attacks on this country still matter. They shape the policy that we're now living under. If we find that our leaders develop national policies that affect all Americans in secret behind closed doors, then it's incumbent upon us to find out why. I find it distinctly un-American to live under the notion that our leaders know what's best for us."


BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much.

BLITZER: Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Patrick Fitzgerald, he's taken on the Mob and is the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case. Now he's earned another distinction that has nothing to do with the law but everything to do with his newfound fame.

And he's had secret sources, has been involved in secret cases before. Bob Woodward now he says he learned of CIA officer Valerie Plame's name very early on. I'll ask Howard Kurtz, the media critic of the "Washington Post" and host of CNN's RELIABLE SOURCES what's going on? Jack wants to know, we want to know. Howie Kurtz standing by with some answers.


BLITZER: Protestor Cindy Sheehan is back on the "Political Radar". She was in Washington in a Washington, D.C., courtroom today, demanding a trial for demonstrating without a permit outside the White House. Next week, Sheehan plans to resume her protest near President Bush's Texas ranch despite new county ordinances banning roadside camping in the area.

A new national poll finds college students are giving President Bush an all-time low approval rating of 41 percent, in line with recent surveys of Americans of all ages. The poll by Harvard University's Institute of Politics shows college students believe, in record numbers, that the country is on the wrong track.

And take a look at this. Patrick Fitzgerald has a new title besides being special prosecutor in the CIA leak case.