Michael Issikoff himself reveals in Newsweek, that a forthcoming book he co-authored with the Nation’s Washington editor Davd Cornidentifies Robert Novak’s source for Valerie Plame’s employment as the long-suspected Richard Armitage.
In the early morning of Oct. 1, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell received an urgent phone call from his No. 2 at the State Department. Richard Armitage was clearly agitated. As recounted in a new book, “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War,” Armitage had been at home reading the newspaper and had come across a column by journalist Robert Novak. Months earlier, Novak had caused a huge stir when he revealed that Valerie Plame, wife of Iraq-war critic Joseph Wilson, was a CIA officer. Ever since, Washington had been trying to find out who leaked the information to Novak. The columnist himself had kept quiet. But now, in a second column, Novak provided a tantalizing clue: his primary source, he wrote, was a “senior administration official” who was “not a partisan gunslinger.” Armitage was shaken. After reading the column, he knew immediately who the leaker was…
Armitage, a well-known gossip who loves to dish and receive juicy tidbits about Washington characters, apparently hadn’t thought through the possible implications of telling Novak about Plame’s identity. “I’m afraid I may be the guy that caused this whole thing,” he later told Carl Ford Jr., State’s intelligence chief. Ford says Armitage admitted to him that he had “slipped up” and told Novak more than he should have. “He was basically beside himself that he was the guy that f—ed up. My sense from Rich is that it was just chitchat,” Ford recalls in “Hubris,” to be published next week by Crown and co-written by the author of this article and David Corn, Washington editor of The Nation magazine.
As it turned out, Novak wasn’t the only person Armitage talked to about Plame. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward has also said he was told of Plame’s identity in June 2003. Woodward did not respond to requests for comment for this article, but, as late as last week, he referred reporters to his comments in November 2005 that he learned of her identity in a “casual and offhand” conversation with an administration official he declined to identify. According to three government officials, a lawyer familiar with the case and an Armitage confidant, all of whom would not be named discussing these details, Armitage told Woodward about Plame three weeks before talking to Novak. Armitage has consistently refused to discuss the case; through an assistant last week he declined to comment for this story. Novak would say only: “I don’t discuss my sources until they reveal themselves.”
The left has never really yearned for Armitage’s scalp. however, since:
Armitage was a member of the administration’s small moderate wing. Along with his boss and good friend, Powell, he had deep misgivings about President George W. Bush’s march to war. A barrel-chested Vietnam vet who had volunteered for combat, Armitage at times expressed disdain for Dick Cheney and other administration war hawks who had never served in the military. Armitage routinely returned from White House meetings shaking his head at the armchair warriors. “One day,” says Powell’s former chief of staff Larry Wilkerson, “we were walking into his office and Rich turned to me and said, ‘Larry, these guys never heard a bullet go by their ears in anger … None of them ever served. They’re a bunch of jerks’.”
Captain Ed puts all this into the proper perspective, which reflects abysmally on both Patrick Fitzgerald and Richard Armitage:
This means that the Department of Justice knew the source of the Plame leak within four months of its occurrence. It also knew that the leak had no malicious intent. Patrick Fitzgerald, who almost certainly knew of it within the first days of his investigation, never attempted to indict the man whom he knew leaked the information. Why, then, has Fitzgerald’s mandate continued after the first week of October?
Fitzgerald took the case on September 26. If this book is accurate about its dates, the DoJ and Fitzgerald would have known about Armitage’s role as the source of the leak five days later. Instead of either charging Armitage or closing down the investigation, Fitzgerald went on a witch hunt. He didn’t even talk to Scooter Libby until two weeks after Armitage’s confession. A year later, Fitzgerald had reporters Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper imprisoned for contempt of court for refusing to divulge a source about a leaker from whom Fitzgerald had already received a confession.
This shows the danger of independent investigators who answer to star chambers instead of the elected representatives that have electoral accountability. The entire Fitzgerald investigation is a massive waste of money and energy, an ego project for one man, a wild-goose chase without the goose. Up to now, we all thought that Armitage never came forward or did so much later in the process. This time line shows Fitzgerald as a dangerous Cotton Mather with a briefcase. What else should we think of a prosecutor who hauls people into court and jails them for contempt when his culprit confessed at the very beginning?
Addendum: The more I think about this, the angrier I get — and not just at Patrick Fitzgerald. Richard Armitage confessed to the DoJ in October 2003, and then sat on his ass for the next three years as the media and the Left play this into a paranoid fantasy of conspiracies and revenge. I know Armitage dislikes Rove, Libby, Cheney, and Bush, but what kind of man sits around while the world accuses people of a “crime” that he himself committed? Armitage did nothing while the nation spent years and millions of dollars chasing a series of red herrings, never speaking out to remove the mystery and end the witch hunt. Even three years later, Armitage hasn’t mustered the testicular fortitude to publicly admit that he leaked Plame’s identity and status; he has Isikoff and Corn do it for him.