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Mr. Woodward said he asked Mr. Armitage how Mr. Wilson happened to go to Africa in the first place.

“His wife’s an (expletive deleted) analyst,” Mr. Armitage went on, in a husky voice marked by chuckling. “How about that?”

Woodward Says He Didn’t Discuss Agent With Libby

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 – The journalist Bob Woodward testified today that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage disclosed the identity of a C.I.A. agent to him in June 2003, but that I. Lewis Libby Jr. said nothing about the agent when Mr. Woodward talked to him two weeks later.

Mr. Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Washington Post who gained fame for his reporting of the Watergate scandal, recalled at Mr. Libby’s criminal trial that Mr. Armitage told him about the agent in a telephone conversation laced with salty language.

Mr. Woodward testified that he already knew, when he talked to Mr. Armitage on June 13, 2003, about a trip that the former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV took to Africa in 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium from Niger. After the trip, Mr. Wilson concluded that the reports were unreliable, and consequently, wrote an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, that the Bush administration was exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Woodward said he asked Mr. Armitage how Mr. Wilson happened to go to Africa in the first place.

“His wife works at the agency,” Mr. Armitage replied, in an audiotape of the conversation between the two men that was played in Federal District Court, where Mr. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is being tried on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

“His wife’s an (expletive deleted) analyst,” Mr. Armitage went on, in a husky voice marked by chuckling. “How about that?”

In contrast, Mr. Woodward said, Mr. Libby said nothing about Mr. Wilson’s wife, Valerie, whose identity was first disclosed publicly in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert Novak. The Wilsons and some Bush administration critics have asserted that Mrs. Wilson was unmasked in retaliation for her husband’s harsh assessment of the administration’s rationale for war.

“Mr. Libby did not saying anything about Mr. Wilson’s wife,” Mr. Woodward testified as a defense witness today.

Recalling his meeting with Mr. Libby on June 27, 2003, the journalist said he was sure he would have included a reference to such a disclosure in the voluminous notes he was compiling of his interviews for a book about the prelude to the Iraq war. There was no such reference, Mr. Woodward said.

Mr. Libby is not accused of leaking Mrs. Wilson’s name, but rather of lying to investigators and grand jurors investigating the leak. The prosecution is trying to prove he did so to protect his boss, the vice president.

The defense is arguing that Mr. Libby was far too busy with weighty matters of state to keep track of conversations he may or may not have had about Mrs. Wilson, and that any inconsistencies in his accounts can be attributed to faulty memory.

Mr. Woodward’s account of his exchanges with Mr. Armitage and Mr. Libby did not directly attack the thrust of the prosecution’s case. But it may have buttressed the defense’s assertions that Mr. Libby is being made a scapegoat by a White House operation willing to sacrifice him to protect Karl Rove, the president’s political adviser. The Wilsons have said he was another likely leaker, and that Mr. Libby was not among the eager gossipers in an administration increasingly defensive about the Iraq war.

Mr. Armitage’s role in disclosing, or at least helping to disclose, the identity of Mrs. Wilson has been known for months. Mr. Novak was expected to testify later today.

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