Bob Woodward always seems to be in the right place at the right time. For the last four years, the newspaperman who, with partner Carl Bernstein, broke the Watergate story (Robert Redford played him in 1976’s All the President’s Men) has been at work on a book about the Department of Defense. When war was declared in the Persian Gulf, Woodward was well on his way to finishing his research on the book, tentatively scheduled for June publication by Simon & Schuster. Using his contacts, Woodward landed a major scoop on page one of the Jan. 28 Washington Post, of which he’s an assistant managing editor. His story, with quotes and intelligence data from unnamed Pentagon sources, asserted that ”despite many successes, important parts of Saddam Hussein’s war machine have not yet been significantly hurt” and that 65 percent of Iraq’s airfields were operational. The story was not denied by U.S. officials, and TV networks (unlike The New York Times) were quick to pick up on its charges that the war effort was lagging behind the claims of the military.
Security measures surrounding the Woodward book at S&S resemble the Pentagon’s. Most of what the press and public want to know about the project is secret: its title, its scope, Woodward’s sources, and how much of it will appear in advance in the Post. Chunks of the manuscript are rushed by messenger from Washington to S&S in New York. The book may now be hustled into print by May. Says David Halberstam, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Powers That Be, ”Woodward’s an extraordinary reporter with extraordinary sources. His access to Colin Powell and Powell’s staff is not something another paper can match.”