Woodward and the President's Men

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Nov. 16 2005 7:12 PM

Woodward and the President's Men

Bloggers are abuzz over Bob Woodward's late-breaking Plame scandal disclosures. They also generally applaud the United Nations' hands-off policy on regulating the Internet, but are of mixed feelings about President Bush's China trip.

Woodward and the president's men:Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward  has divulged that he was tipped off about Valerie Plame's identity by an anonymous White House official before Scooter Libby is said to have disclosed it to reporters. In a public statement released last night (read it in full here), Woodward said he knew Joseph Wilson's wife was a CIA agent as early as mid-June 2003. Woodward, who was called to testify before investigator Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury, also said he relayed this skinny to WaPo journo Walter Pincus in October 2003. Pincus' much-bruited response: "Are you kidding? I certainly would have remembered that."

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Bloggers on either end of the spectrum are in a state of high pique. Conservative Tom Maguire at Just One Minute wonders: "With Bob Woodward as a potential witness, the defense can have fun with an updated version of the old Watergate question – 'What else did Fitzgerald not know, and when did he not know it?'" Lefty Political Animal and Washington Monthly regular Kevin Drum is flummoxed as to who this mysterious 11th-hour source might be: "Perhaps Mr. X is a cooperating witness, or perhaps he's someone who started to feel some heat and decided to come forward because he got scared. Who knows?" Resident D.C. snarktrix Wonkette suggests we follow the screen time: "We have another theory: Bob Woodward had not been on television in the last week or so." Brit Avedon Carol at The Sideshow shrugs aggressively, "So Bob Woodward turns out to be part of the story. … And he's part of Washington Post editorial management, which tells you something about why the paper has been such a disaster in reporting on this administration."

As to the claims Woodward previously made on Larry King Live that the outing of Plame caused only "embarrassment" and "quite minimal damage" within the CIA, vehement Bush critic Atrios says, "If I were Booby's editors, and perhaps a wee bit peeved at not being previously informed of what he was up to, and perhaps a wee bit more likely that Pincus, the not celebrity journalist, is telling the truth than Booby is I'd start looking into where Booby got his information. …" But to what does all this translate in the perjury and false testimony indictment of Scooter Libby?  A small shadow of doubt, according to Bulldogpundit at conservative AnkleBitingPundits: "Anytime a defense attorney can point to errors and omissions by a prosecutor, even if not directly related to the issue at hand, it calls into question the prosecutions credibility on every aspect of the case."

ICANN and I will: Today's decision by the United Nations to allow the United States to retain (for now) its control of Internet domain names and IP addresses is good news for bloggers. The United Nations, which is hosting a World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis this week, has agreed to allow the California-based ICANN to continue to manage the technical aspects of assigning global Web portals and also to adjudicate on matters of intellectual copyright infringement. Both the United Nations and the European Union had expressed fears about total U.S. jurisdiction over the laws that govern cyberspace.

Libertarian Julian Sanchez at libertarian Reason magazine's Hit and Run writes, "Opponents of international (and, more to the point, intergovernmental) Net oversight made much of the fact that the U.S. doesn't generally exercise that authority. Great. So cut the umbilical cord once and for all." Tech-market scribe Suitably Flipis also against the prospect of Net internationalization: "Set aside that it was predominantly American capital, information systems, and intellectual resources that gave rise to the internet (which of course is how U.S.-based organizations grew organically into the role of de facto overseers). From a strictly utilitarian, what's-best-for-the-future-of-the-internet perspective, it's senseless that there's such hue and cry to upturn a status quo that in fact serves phenomenally well." Ray Gifford at the Progress & Freedom Foundation blog agrees: "ICANN is far from a perfect creature, but handing the Internet over to a multi-lateral, international body is a sure way to dampen innovation, kill openness and slow progress. Then again, that is often what the EU seems to be about. ..."

Shay at the classical liberal Dean's World is also happy. He's delimited the opposition thusly: "This was an attempt by socialists to tax us to death and limit our speech. And it was no surprise that dictator nations were the ones most supportive of the European Union's proposal." Even Canadian Jay Currie is equable about the short-term U.S. gain. "The silly threat of the Chinese and the more aggressive euros was that they would set up their own root servers and have their own internet … which no one would use because it would lack several billion of the 8 billion pages of content Google indexes and, potentially, lack Google itself," he writes. New Media maven Eripsa is slightly more cautious, suggesting that the simmering anti-Americanism behind U.N./EU attempts to change the status quo be confronted with non-American camouflage: "What we need to see now is the US backing off of any appearance of control over ICANN, and ICANN itself taking measures to distance itself from US policy."

Mainlining democracy on the mainland: Bloggers are weighing in on President Bush's speech in China today, wherein he indicated Taiwan as a model for the democratic and human rights reforms needed in Beijing. The Shanghai-born Harry Chen thinks Bush's tough talk is cheap: "I wonder if he knows the true implication of asking the Chinese to suddenly switch to a democratic system. In a democratic system, people are expected to make decisions for the society. There are so many people in China didn't have good education, and probably won't be able to make sound decisions on their own." The pro-reform Doug at Rear View Mirror notes, "If Bush believes China does not meet certain international standards on how it treats its citizens then he should not have gone on the trip. He should have China's favorite nation trading status revoked by Congress and take other measures, such as stopping the import of Chinese goods until that country decides to adhere to copy write regulations." RightWingBob, however, sees a more positive tilt in the U.S. approach: "It's almost as if George W. Bush has decided to take Victor Davis Hanson's advice from a few weeks ago, now that he's taking on his domestic war critics and speaking aggressively about freedom - in this case to China, North Korea and Myanmar/Burma. Keep it up, Dubya."

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.