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Armitage Shmarmitage--Jason Leopold, Truthout, 9/08/06

*Armitage Shmarmitage*
   By Jason Leopold
   t r u t h o u t | Report

   Friday 08 September 2006

   In April, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald filed a court
document in the CIA leak case claiming his staff had obtained evidence
during the course of the three-year-old probe that proves "multiple"
White House officials were engaged in a coordinated effort to discredit
former ambassador Joseph Wilson.

   Those officials, Fitzgerald said, eventually disclosed Wilson's
wife's covert CIA status to the media as retribution for his public
criticism of the Bush administration's use of pre-war Iraq intelligence.

   But the mainstream media has chosen to ignore those facts now that
former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage broke his silence
Thursday and admitted that he told syndicated columnist Robert Novak and
Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame,
worked for the CIA.

   According to these mainstream publications, Armitage's mea culpa
proves there wasn't a White House campaign to discredit Wilson or unmask
his wife's identity.

   Oh really?

   "There exist documents ... that reveal a strong desire by many,
including multiple people in the White House, to repudiate Mr. Wilson
before and after July 14, 2003," Fitzgerald wrote in the April 5 filing.

   In fact, Fitzgerald says it's ludicrous to suggest there wasn't a
White House campaign to attack Wilson for criticizing the White House
and leak his wife's identity to reporters, given the voluminous
documents he has in his possession that prove otherwise.

   "Given that there is evidence that ... White House officials ...
discussed Wilson's wife's employment with the press both prior to, and
after, July 14, 2003, it is hard to conceive of what evidence there
could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to
'punish' Wilson," Fitzgerald wrote in the court filing.

   Perhaps mainstream journalists have declared war on Fitzgerald over
the past few weeks because so many of the country's top reporters have
been hauled into court against their will by the special counsel to
testify before a grand jury about their conversations with White House
officials in the leak matter.

   But that's no excuse for rewriting history and depriving the public
of the truth.

   Case in point: according to documents Fitzgerald obtained, the
months that preceded the leak saw many unknown officials in the Office
of the Vice President hatching a plan to strike back at Wilson, who at
the time was urging journalists and lawmakers to hold the Bush
administration accountable for using bogus intelligence to win support
for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.

   The April 5 court filing says I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice
President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, and National Security
Adviser Stephen Hadley were two of the key figures who were involved in
conversations and meetings at Cheney's office in which White House
officials discussed ways of striking back against Wilson's criticism of
the administration's war effort. Karl Rove was also involved in the
discussions.

   The court document Fitzgerald filed in April did not name any other
White House officials who were involved in the Wilson smear campaign,
but it's well-known that Vice President Cheney, Libby and Rove led the
effort. Rove told Novak that Plame worked at the CIA on July 8, 2003,
the same day Armitage spoke to the columnist. Evidence has not been
produced that proves Armitage spoke to Novak first.

   Libby - not Armitage - spoke to Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, and
told her about Plame's work at the CIA. Moreover, Rove - not Armitage -
spoke to Matt Cooper of Time Magazine on July 11, 2003, and told him
that Plame worked for the CIA. Libby was indicted on five counts of
perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly deceiving FBI
investigators and the grand jury about how he discovered Plame worked
for the CIA and whether he shared that with reporters.

   During a February court hearing discussing Libby's federal criminal
trial, Fitzgerald said Libby was "consumed with [Wilson] to an extent
more than he should have been.... When talking about Mr. Wilson for the
first time, he described himself as a former Hill staffer. He meets with
people off premises. There were some unusual things I won't get into
about that week. At the end of the day we're talking about someone who
spent a lot of time during the week of July 7 to July 14 focused on the
issue of Wilson and Wilson's wife." On July 7, 2003, Libby "had a lunch
where he imparted that information in what was described as a weird
situation," Fitzgerald said at the hearing.

   "He had a private meeting with a reporter outside the White House
with this meeting. He was quoted in a very rare interview on a Saturday
on the record in an interview with Time Magazine, a very weird
circumstance. There are a lot of markers I won't get into that show that
this was a very important focus, the Wilson controversy from July 7 to
14, because it was a direct attack on the credibility of the
administration, whether accurate or not, and upon the vice president,
and people were attacking Mr. Libby. So it was a focus," Fitzgerald
said, according to a copy of the court transcript obtained by Truthout.

   In the April court filing, Fitzgerald explained how former White
House press secretary Scott McClellan came to publicly exonerate Libby
and Rove during a press briefing in October 2003, three months after
Plame's identity as a CIA operative was unmasked.

   The filing suggested that Libby had lied about his role in the leak
when McClellan asked him about it in October 2003. Libby, with Vice
President Cheney's backing, persuaded the press secretary to clear his
name during one of his morning press briefings, and prepared notes for
him to use.

   "Though defendant knew that another White House official had spoken
to Novak in advance of Novak's column and that official had learned in
advance that Novak would be publishing information about Wilson's wife,
defendant did not disclose that fact to other White House officials
(including the vice president) but instead prepared a handwritten
statement of what he wished White House Press Secretary McClellan would
say to exonerate him:

   "People have made too much of the difference in
   How I described Karl and Libby I've talked to Libby.
   I said it was ridiculous about Karl.
   And it is ridiculous about Libby.
   Libby was not the source of the Novak story.
   And he did not leak classified information."

   "As a result of defendant's request, on October 4, 2003, White House
Press Secretary McClellan stated that he had spoken to Mr. Libby (as
well as Mr. Rove and Elliot Abrams) and 'those individuals assured me
that they were not involved in this,'" Fitzgerald said in the April 5
court filing.

   McClellan's public statement and the fact that President Bush vowed
to fire anyone in his office involved in the leak were motivating
factors that led Libby to lie during an interview with FBI investigators
in November 2003.

   "Thus, as defendant approached his first FBI interview, he knew that
the White House had publicly staked its credibility on there being no
White House involvement in the leaking of information about Ms. Wilson
and that, at defendant's specific request through the vice president,
the White House had publicly proclaimed that defendant was 'not involved
in this,'" Fitzgerald states in the court filing.
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