Armitage 'Fesses Up With Permission From Fitz

In the anti-climactic news of the day, Richard Armitage received Patrick Fitzgerald's blessing Tuesday to disclose what we all knew -- that he was one of those who told Robert Novak and Bob Woodward that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA.

Armitage was rueful nonetheless, and disclosed that he had written a letter of resignation as the State Department's No. 2 official and closest adviser to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell.

"There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't feel that I let down the president, the secretary of state, the Department of State, my family and friends and for that matter, the Wilsons," he said. "I consider myself someone who's valued the ability to keep state secrets," he said. "This was bad."

But, he did not tell Novak she was an "operative" or what she did there -- or even that Wilson's wife had been responsible for the CIA sending Wilson to Niger.

Armitage said he first contacted the Justice Department on Oct. 1, 2003, the day after the department launched a criminal investigation into the leaking of Plame's name. Knowingly disclosing the identity of an undercover CIA officer is a felony.

The former senior U.S. diplomat and Pentagon official said he had never been accused of wrongdoing in the matter or subpoenaed, and had cooperated fully with Fitzgerald. "I offered everything fully ... even my wife's computer," he said.

Armitage, who appeared before a grand jury three times, said he could only guess as to why Fitzgerald continued the investigation. There were allegations at the time, he noted, that two White House officials had discussed Plame's identity with a half-dozen reporters.

"There was a question, I believe, not only of who talked to Mr. Novak, no matter how inadvertent it was ... (but also there was) the question of whether there was some sort of `conspiracy,' unquote."

As for Woodward:

Armitage also said he had discussed Wilson's wife's employment at the CIA in an earlier conversation with Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, on June 13, 2003. He said he hadn't recalled that conversation until Woodward reminded him of it later, and he then immediately called the FBI and sought another meeting with Fitzgerald.

Here's what he said he told Novak:

Armitage said that Novak, at the end of the interview, asked him why the CIA had sent Joseph Wilson to Niger to check on the reports of Iraq's interest in uranium. He said his recollection was that he replied, "I don't know, but his wife works out there." "I had no real understanding I told Novak something of enormous interest," he said.

Here's what Novak said after his column was published:

Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." (my emphasis.)

So if it wasn't Armitage who gave Novak her name, who was it? Rove said he didn't know her name. Where did Novak get the information he wrote in his infamous column? Even taking Novak at face value (and Kevin Drum doesn't), that he found the name "Plame" by looking in Who's Who, who told him that Wilson's wife may have had a role in sending Wilson to Niger?

Another interesting question: Libby's lawyers wrote in this brief (pdf) that Fitz learned of Novak's source in February, 2004. If Armitage disclosed it to the Government in October, 2003, why wasn't Fitz told until he had been on the job two months?

From another Novak column I wrote about here:

"Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA [Harlow] says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him."

Novak asked then Bill Harlow about Wilson's wife's role before he wrote his column. Is Novak still shielding someone? More on Novak and Harlow here.

[Hat tip for Armitage article to Patriot Daily.]

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    Re: Armitage 'Fesses Up With Permission From Fitz (none / 0) (#2)
    by emptywheel on Sat Sep 09, 2006 at 09:27:27 PM EST
    Superb catch, Jeralyn, on the Feb 2004 source. I need to come back and look at it tomorrow. But I've been arguing for a while that there is evidence Dick and/or Libby spoke to Novak earlier. Perhaps Novak is the reporter Libby spoke to--as recent news to Fitz--on July 2?