By the end of the first week of October, 2003, investigators knew the identity of the individual who leaked the identity of non-covert CIA employee Valerie Plame in violation of no law. Furthermore, this information was made available to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald when he was appointed to that position in December, 2003.
It was Richard Armitage, a well-known gossip and moderate opponent of Bush policy in the Middle East.
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," 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, 2003â€”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.
Fitzgerald continued his investigation for a additional two years, creating perjury traps for individuals who he knew had no connection to the leak. In the end, only one individual was indicted, on charges that could well stem from a faulty memory rather than intentional criminal activity. Armitage walked away unscathed, and continues to lack the cojones to admit his role publicly -- and allowed the Bush administration to suffer from close to three years of acusations of malfeasance which have undermined the trust of some segments of the American Body Politic.
And while we are at it, let us note that this should forever remove any notion that Colin Powell is a stand-up guy and a straight-shooter. He allowed Armitage to stay on at the State Department for some time after the leak, never publicly disclosed the identity of the leaker, and also permitted the left-wing spin to undermine the Bush Administration. His actions were disgraceful, dishonorable, and unpatriotic.
UPDATE -- 8/30/2006: Armitage admits guilt.
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