Recent headlines charge that Bob Woodward has withheld information on a major national story. Nothing new there. Thirty-three years ago, Woodward was in the same business.
That story was a tale of espionage and treason carried out at the highest level of the United States Military, against President Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger. When the story finally did break in newspapers other than the Washington Post, it forced the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold hearings to determine exactly what had taken place.
In January 1974 reporters James Squires and Dan Thomasson published, in their respective Chicago newspapers the Tribune and the Sun, the story of what would become well known as the “Moorer/Radford affair.”
Woodward knew this story well, for it involved several individuals he had worked for and with during his five year tour of duty in the US Navy.
In 1970, Admiral Thomas Moorer, newly-appointed Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff, was frustrated by the JCS being cut out of the loop on important international negotiations by Nixon and Kissinger. To obtain information critical to the security of the country, Moorer decided to set up an espionage ring whose immediate target was the National Security Council–the vehicle being used by Nixon and Kissinger to circumvent the usual ways of communicating with foreign powers. Prior to this time, Woodward–then a lieutenant–was a briefer for Moorer–someone who monitored an important secret communication channel, briefed top brass, and was sent to the White House to repeat such briefings. During 1969-1970, Moorer sent Woodward to the White House to brief Colonel Alexander Haig, Kissinger’s assistant on the NSC. Moorer confirms Woodward’s role as a White House briefer!
Woodward had resigned from the Navy by the time Moorer had fully set up the espionage ring. But it involved another admiral for whom Woodward had previously worked, Admiral Robert O. Welander, the commander of Woodward’s second ship in the Navy, the USS Fox. Welander was the head of a small liaison office in the White House, and an ex officio member of the NSC. His yeoman, named Radford, stole thousands of documents–a “library” of them, Radford would later claim–and Welander passed these secret documents to Moorer for over a year until the spy ring was discovered and shut down. The triggering incident for its discovery was a leak to columnist Jack Anderson in December of 1971
Read the entire spy ring story at: http://www.watergate.com/stories/spyring.asp
In May of 1973, just as the Senate Watergate Committee hearings were getting under way, Woodward asked for and obtained a meeting with Welander at the Marriott Hotel–the same hotel in which Woodward has written where he met Mark Felt, whom Woodward has identified as Deep Throat. At this meeting with Welander, Woodward revealed to his former skipper that he knew a great deal about the still-secret spy ring story.
In an interview for Silent Coup excerpted below, Welander speaks to me concerning Woodward’s early knowledge of Moorer-Radford.
Interview with Admiral Robert O,. Welander [excerpt]
by LEN COLODNY–March 28, 1987
COLODNY: Bob also told me that you saw Woodward after he left the, the Navy for the first time, you saw him in, in May of ’73.
WELANDER: That was about it, right, yes.
COLODNY: Was that the meeting you had at that Marriott, and that’s where Woodward tells you he knows about Moorer-Radford?
COLODNY: Did, he give you any hint as to where he got it from?
WELANDER: A that time, no.
COLODNY: Did he at any point tell you where he got it from?
WELANDER: Well, I told Bob, many years later and everything else, he referred to the fact that Ehrlichman, was the one who had, tried to make a major issue out of the whole thing.
Woodward clearly knew of this important story eight months before it broke in the news, but did not write anything about it. He did, however, hint at it in a story published in the Washington Post on October 10, 1973 on page A-27,which said: “A low level assistant to the NSC had his phone tapped in an investigation of news leaks in late 1971,” and went on to state that an unnamed source had said this was “in connection with a 1971 probe of the leak of secret documents to Jack Anderson about US Policy in the India-Pakistan War.”
Woodward did not write another word on the subject until the day after the Squires and Thomasson story broke. Then Woodward wrote a front page story, complete with a photo of Admiral Welander–a story that downplayed the espionage as no big deal. There is no mention in this story of the fact that Woodward had worked for Welander. Keeping such information from the public is a violation of the public’s right to know.
The story continued in the headlines, but not in pieces by Woodward; he yielded that beat on his paper to Michael Getler. The Chicago papers and Seymour Hersh of The New York Times continued to press the issue.
Woodward suggested to Welander that Ehrlichman had been his source. Ehrlichman told me he that he wasn’t the source. Moreover, only someone with inside knowledge of the affair could have detected a hint of it in Ehrlichman’s testimony to the Senate in mid-1973, when he invoked executive privilege in regards to a partially-blacked-out document that was presented to him for review. Ehrlichman would not publicly mention the issue again until he was preparing for his trial in 1974. This all took place after Woodward’s meeting with Welander.
It seems that Woodward was protecting his past, and I believe his future military associates by first withholding the news of Moorer-Radford, then down playing it when it did surface, and finally by distancing himself from further investigation of it–all of this while not disclosing to his readers his conflict of interest occasioned by a close relationship with Admirals Moorer and Welander.
Withhold the news, then downplay it when it appears elsewhere, and not disclose his inherent conflict of interest–even, supposedly, to his editors at the Washington Post. In the recent Valerie Plame identity leak story, the circumstances are somewhat different than they were with Moorer-Radford, but Woodward’s methods and those he is trying to protect by these methods, his right-wing and militaristic sources in the government, remain the same.
For more information see: http://www.watergate.com