Sunday, August 27, 2006

Plamegate rears its ugly head again - Richard Armitage Robert Novak's source?

Richard Armitage, a Naval Academy graduate, and the former Deputy Secretary of State under Colin Powell, has been identified by Michael Isikoff and David Corn as Robert Novak's original source in the Valerie Plame affair (Plamegate).

In a Newsweek article promoting their new book Hubris, Isikoff and Corn lay out what they believe to be Armitage's role in the revelation of Valerie Plame's identity.  A revelation which resulted in a political crisis, an Independent Prosecutor investigation, and the indictment and resignation of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff.

According to Isikoff and Corn Armitage only realized he may have possible been Novak's source after Novak wrote a second article in which he stated, his primary source was a senior administration official who was not a partisan gunslinger.  After reading this Armitage contacted Powell who contacted State's senior legal advisor.  The justice department was notified and Patrick Fitzgerald (the independent prosecutor) eventually informed.  Fitzgerald however was not informed that Armitage had also passed the same information to Bob Woodward earlier in the month.  That information did not come out until earlier this year.

This all took place within days of the convening of the investigation, which was supposed to discover who leaked the name, leaving open the question why did the leak go forward.  In addition Fitzgerald's indictment of Libby lists him as apparently the first person to mention Plame's name to a reporter.  We now know that to apparently be false, will the indictment be amended or dropped?

Isikoff and Corn do note that the leak which triggered the Plame investigation was not part of a White House smear campaign:

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.

and that the administration played it straight with the investigation:

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.

The underline part bothers me both because it indicates an effort to discredit the administration by the State Department, which a lot of people have suspected for a long time.  And because now three years later Armitage is still willing (if this account is true) to let someone else take the blame and go to prison.

Armitage is now an advisor to John McCain


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