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Key Read: Armitage's central role in the Valerie Plame leak

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.

*The Man Who Said Too Much*

   A book coauthored by NEWSWEEK's Michael Isikoff details Richard
   Armitage's central role in the Valerie Plame leak.
   *By Michael Isikoff*
   Newsweek

   Aug 27, 2006

   Sept. 4, 2006 issue - 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,"*
   <http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0307346811>  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. On the phone with Powell that
   morning, Armitage was "in deep distress," says a source directly
   familiar with the conversation who asked not to be identified
   because of legal sensitivities. "I'm sure he's talking about me."

   Armitage's admission led to a flurry of anxious phone calls and
   meetings that day at the State Department. (Days earlier, the
   Justice Department had launched a criminal investigation into the
   Plame leak after the CIA informed officials there that she was an
   undercover officer.) Within hours, William Howard Taft IV, the State
   Department's legal adviser, notified a senior Justice official that
   Armitage had information relevant to the case. The next day, a team
   of FBI agents and Justice prosecutors investigating the leak
   questioned the deputy secretary. Armitage acknowledged that he had
   passed along to Novak information contained in a classified State
   Department memo: that Wilson's wife worked on
   weapons-of-mass-destruction issues at the CIA. (The memo made no
   reference to her undercover status.) Armitage had met with Novak in
   his State Department office on July 8, 2003—just days before Novak
   published his first piece identifying Plame. Powell, Armitage and
   Taft, the only three officials at the State Department who knew the
   story, never breathed a word of it publicly and Armitage's role
   remained secret.

   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."

   Armitage's central role as the primary source on Plame is detailed
   for the first time in "Hubris," which recounts the leak case and the
   inside battles at the CIA and White House in the run-up to the war.
   The disclosures about Armitage, gleaned from interviews with
   colleagues, friends and lawyers directly involved in the case,
   underscore one of the ironies of the Plame investigation: that the
   initial leak, seized on by administration critics as evidence of how
   far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent, came
   from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone.

   Indeed, 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'."

   But officials at the White House also told reporters about Wilson's
   wife in an effort to discredit Wilson for his public attacks on
   Bush's handling of Iraq intelligence. Karl Rove confirmed to Novak
   that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, and days later offered the
   same information to Time reporter Matt Cooper. The inquiry into the
   case led to the indictment of Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis
   (Scooter) Libby, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.
   Armitage himself was aggressively investigated by special counsel
   Patrick Fitzgerald, but was never charged. Fitzgerald found no
   evidence that Armitage knew of Plame's covert CIA status when he
   talked to Novak and Woodward. The decision to go to the FBI that
   panicky October afternoon also may have helped Armitage. Powell,
   Armitage and Taft were aware of the perils of a cover-up—all three
   had lived through the Iran-contra scandal at the Defense Department
   in the late 1980s.

   Taft, the State Department lawyer, also felt obligated to inform
   White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. But Powell and his aides
   feared the White House would then leak that Armitage had been
   Novak's source—possibly to embarrass State Department officials who
   had been unenthusiastic about Bush's Iraq policy. So Taft told
   Gonzales the bare minimum: that the State Department had passed some
   information about the case to Justice. He didn't mention Armitage.
   Taft asked if Gonzales wanted to know the details. The president's
   lawyer, playing the case by the book, said no, and Taft told him
   nothing more. Armitage's role thus remained that rarest of
   Washington phenomena: a hot secret that never leaked.

   URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14533384/site/newsweek/
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