Armitage, a Review

About 6,204 people have emailed me news of Armitage’s mea kinda culpa on Blitzer. The admission of stupidity is really nothing new–Armitage said something similar when he came forward to speak with David Martin last fall.

Since a lot of people have asked what memo he learned of Plame’s identity from–here it is. As you can see, the memo itself is Top Secret, presumably because the fourth paragraph, which details the objection to the claims about Iraq’s use of aluminum tubes, is Top Secret. Also, some of the attachments that were not included with the version of the memo introduced at the trial may be Top Secret. The paragraph including the description of Valerie is classified Secret, likely because Joe Wilson’s trip itself was classified Secret (see the trip report included with the INR memo).

The paragraph describing the famous February 19, 2002 meeting (and the notes on which that paragraph are based) includes Valerie’s first name, but not the name Plame. Neither description of Valerie notes her covert status, and I’ve never seen any indication Douglas Rohn, who wrote the notes, knew Valerie was covert. These details don’t exonerate Armitage for blabbing about Valerie–as someone with a lifetime experience working with and (reportedly) in intelligence, Armitage knew he had an affirmative responsibility to clear information before passing it on. But the details are critically important for reasons relating to the investigation and charging decisions.

First, so long as Armitage could prove this memo was the sole source of his knowledge of Valerie’s purported role in Joe’s trip, then he could assert he had no idea that Valerie was covert. I strongly suspect Armitage made a much stronger case on this point than Libby and even Rove did, which is probably one of the reasons Armitage escaped charges.

Second, this memo is not by itself enough to serve as the source of Novak’s leak. It doesn’t include the name Plame nor does it reveal that Valerie was covert. Therefore, those trying to understand this story have two choices: They can believe Novak’s story that he found the name "Plame" in "Who’s Who" (and for some obtuse reason used Valerie’s maiden name in his column) and that he used the word "operative" to describe a CIA employee solely because he uses the word "operative" to describe political figures frequently (Novak once claimed that Valerie was just like someone running a Congressional campaign in Wyoming, and that’s why he used the word "operative," which has always sounded more like a subconscious admission of a former Wyoming Congressman’s involvement in this smear than a credible explanation for his use of the word). You can believe this story, in spite of the fact that Novak first told it–and tentatively, at first–only after it became clear his source may have violated the IIPA. And if you believe this story, than you can believe that Armitage was the first and only source for Novak on Valerie’s identity, that Rove gave Novak no further details, and neither did Libby when he spoke to Novak in the July 9, 2003 conversation that both hid for over two years.

Or you can believe that Novak had a source in addition to Armitage, who might be either Rove (on July 8 or 9) or Libby (on July 9). One of them almost certainly shared information they knew to be classified–the trip report–with Novak, so there is reason to believe they were knowingly spreading classified information. Also, the FBI apparently suspected someone had told Novak of Valerie’s identity before he spoke with Armitage, which would correlate logically with some reporting on the Frances Fragos Townsend smear he was doing on July 7, almost certainly with one of the two people who propagated the smear, David Addington or Scooter Libby.

One final, important, point about Armitage. I’ve seen assertions that Armitage "leaked Valerie’s name." That’s certainly possible–the INR memo uses her first name. But that point is under dispute–or at least it was in Fall 2004 when Fitzgerald was pursuing the testimony of journalists. Here’s how Fitzgerald described the ongoing disputes in August 2004:

Novak and Armitage agree on several importantfacts, such as the time, date and place of the meeting during which theconversation took place, and the fact that Wilson’s wife and employment by theCIA was disclosed to Novak by Armitage in response to a question by Novak as towhy the CIA had sent Wilson on the trip. Their testimony diverges as to whetherArmitage provided the first name of Ms. Plame, though both agree the last name,“Plame” was not provided. Novak recalls being told by Armitage that Wilson’swife worked in the area of weapons of mass destruction –[redacted] Armitagedoes not recall discussing the area in which Wilson’s wife worked. Novak andArmitage give differing accounts of other materials not germane to the instantmotion. [my emphasis]

The issue is relevant, among other reasons, because Novak appears to have used Valerie’s name when he blabbed about Valerie’s role at the CIA to Joe Wilson’s friend. He claims he hadn’t spoken to Rove (or anyone else) at this point, so if Armitage is telling the truth (there’s reason to distrust both Novak and Armitage), then it would all but confirm that Novak is lying about when he learned of Valerie’s identity and from whom.

So in summary: this "admission" is nothing new. And it doesn’t excuse Armitage. But it is also no reason to make unsubstantiated claims that ignore the unanswered questions about the leak.

  1. Anonymous says:


    p e r f e c t.

    i had been waiting to read
    a real expert’s — actually,
    the definitive expert’s –
    opinion on this since yesterday,
    noon. thanks — as always.

    the nut of it is a standard
    neo-con spin-strategy: tell
    a lie, but tell it in a way
    that all which follows therefrom
    seems decidely reasonable; com-
    pelled, in fact. . .


    [i was not among the 6,204. . .]

    p e a c e

    – nolo

  2. radiofreewill says:

    This is one of those situations that really, really gives one pause on the eve of Telco Immunity/BushCo Amnesty.

    Much of what appears mysterious in the CIA Leak Case about how the players and their activities follow each other, could well be explained if Cheney were using the ability to track meta-data (if not content, as well) associated with e-mails, phone conversations, cables, etc in order to orchestrate the ’smear’ of the Wilsons, using Armitage as a ’foil,’ Duberstein and Hohlt as useful idiots, Novak as a tool, and Libby/Rove as ’protected by freedom of the press’ leakers.

    After all, as far as Bush and Cheney were concerned – questioning the WMD Rationale for the War was tantamount to ’calling them out’ as manipulative spinners, at the least. The Niger story had the potential to ’blow-up’ the entire Military effort to complete the mission, already started, in Iraq, as well. Joe Wilson’s accusations carried tremendous consequences for both Bush/Cheney and Rumsfeld.

    After six years of ’fixing the facts to fit the policy,’ it seems clear that this Administration makes determinations of ’enemy’ status based on perceived Ideological opposition, masked with trumped-up threats-to-the-State. They’ve shown they would surveil US without warrants, presumably because there are ’terrorist Citizens’ amongst US – meaning, in the eyes of the ’authorizers,’ Warrantless Surveillance of Ideological Opponents supervenes over that Citizen’s Rights by the Rule of Law.

    Who really doubts that Bush or Cheney would have had any compunction against declaring the Wilson’s ’Ideological enemies’ and surveilling them? Or the CIA, the DoS, the Media, USA’s and anyone else who might ’proliferate’ the Truth about the Lies that Bush and Cheney used to Stampede US into a War of Aggression against an innocent sovereign nation?

    Would Telco Immunity be giving Amnesty for that?

  3. Neil says:

    â€Still waiting on those answers as to what sorts of hairballs Armitage coughed up in exchange for keeping his ample ass out of the Grand Jury indictment rodeo.†CHS @ FDL

  4. emptywheel says:


    Not really, IMO. We know Armitage said that a lot of things purported to be true in the press were not true (such as that he passed on the name). We know there was the leaking of classified info that went unprosecuted. We know that the FBI at least (and I suspect, Fitz), had significant suspicions about the base level veracity of Novak’s story.

    So you’ve got Armitage not prosecuted on a violation of his security clearance–at a time when he was almost out of government. Since Rove–who was still in government–was not prosecuted for same, then this is not surprising.

    You’ve got potential perjury–Armitage’s failure to reveal he had leaked Plame’s ID to Woodward. Rove, too, had a similar potential perjury not charged, with a hell of a lot more evidence to support the charge.

    There wasn’t a prosecutable case against Armitage; there arguably wasn’t one against Rove. So why should we be surprised?

  5. Jeff says:

    Novak appears to have used Valerie’s name when he blabbed about Valerie’s role at the CIA to Joe Wilson’s friend.

    Just to add to this, if Novak did indeed use her first name with Wilson’s friend on the street right after talking with Armitage, as the rendition of the conversation in both of the Wilsons’ books indicate (though it is otherwise in Novak’s), then Novak would have extra incentive to testify that Armitage told him because Novak knew, from talking with Joe Wilson on July 10, that Wilson had a contemporary documentary record of the conversation between Novak and Wilson’s friend – Novak writes that Wilson gave an accurate rendition of the conversation to him and that Wilson was evidently reading from some written record. And in fact we know from Wilson’s book that as soon as his friend came over to his office to tell WIlson about what had just happened with Novak, they wrote the whole thing down.

    Furthermore, though there is reason to doubt Armitage on a number of counts, it’s not clear that this would be one of them. He indisputably knew Wilson’s wife’s first name from the INR memo, and there was nothing particularly damning about giving the first name to Novak over and above giving her identity as a CIA employee (at least that I can think of). So it’s unclear what his motivation would be to lie about this. Finally, it supports (though hardly in a slam dunk way) Armitage’s version that he indisputably did not use VPW’s name in any form when he blew her cover to Woodward the month before.

    The other dispute between Armitage’s version and Novak’s that Fitzgerald mentions is also interesting – whether Armitage told Novak that she worked in CPD or the area (WMD) that she worked in. Novak says in his book that he told Rove that, so obviously if he did not get it from Armitage, that’s not how Rove learned of it.

    Needless to say, Novak’s entire account serves to minimize the role of Novak and maximize the role of Armitage.

    Which reminds me: one of the many unanswered questions in Novak’s highly incomplete account in his book concerns whether, as Murray Waas reported, Novak communicated with Karl Rove on September 29, 2003 or thereabouts about the leak and the incipient investigation of it. Now, on FOX News a while back, Novak called Waas’ report â€totally wrong and a total lie,†though he never specified just in what sense. And he is completely silent on the matter in his book. However, he does describe a conversation on that day with a Bush administration official whom he describes in very similar terms to the way he describes Rove in other parts of the book. During that conversation, the official told Novak that he was almost sure that 1×2×6 – the Bush administration official who told the Washington Post two days before that two senior WHite House officials had blown Plame’s cover to at least six reporters before NOvak’s column was published – was Adam Levine, and that he would soon be fired. Sounds plausibly like Rove to me, and raises the question of whether Levine was in fact 1×2×6. In any case, though, Novak has nothing to say specifically about talking with Rove around that time. Also left unspecified is whether this conversation happened before or after the time on that very day when Novak’s lawyer told him not to talk with anyone about the case.

    Of course, Novak is more than happy to report on his conversation a couple of days later with Ken Duberstein on behalf of Armitage in which Duberstein sought to confirm with Novak that Armitage had been Novak’s source and seemingly to shape Novak’s potential testimony on the matter by underlining that Armitage’s leak was inadvertent, whatever that is supposed to mean.

  6. Jeff says:

    Yes, that’s it, thanks. I will take lawyer bmaz’ advice and preemptively admit terminal lameness, thereby excusing myself now and forever.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Oh, it only explains the behavior, it doesn’t excuse anything, that is where the begging for mercy comes in…

  8. JohnLopresti says:

    I wonder if some Armitage thinking was tinged with a modicum of wistfulness about how adroitly JWilson’s travel’s commissioning as well as the subsequent report production in its various forms ’got too far out ahead’ on the version the neoCons had planned and planted. Some of Armitage’s kinda sua culpa is mere replay of the administration’s latterday self-exculpations, but a hint of regret for being outwitted and bared for same seems to course through the brief remarks NYT LedeBlog cited today. And Armitage’s lusty cry of repentance viewed chronologically now six months after the Walton trial ended, rides atop the presidential commutation process decreed, gaining lexic fervor proportional to expansive shelter added by Bush’s declaration in reply to Libby’s own sentencing. Spell it relief: Fitzgerald agreed to avoid the centrality of Armitage’s somewhat admitted responsibility for outing vpw; and Armitage could rest easy that Rove had other assignments than scapegoating a senior member of State.

    It would be interesting to do some historical research thru several prior political jams State officialdom has endured in other administrations. Maybe all Armitage is saying is the political advisor in the white house played dirtier than any political animal had in Armitage’s 3+ decades recollection; plus the fourthbranch prong’s contribution to the foolhardy strategy to attack a spouse. But the chronicling I have in mind extends beyond the nexus members of the Republican Party in the US House of Representatives like to disgorge depicting the difficulty Clinton experienced in formulating executive decisions in the many bush conflicts in the Balkans while the Independent Counsel scanned for scandal tailored to suit the neocon fantasy of permarule. Maybe the Helsinki process would be an equivalent, from State’s vantage; or way back, some of the machinations in prior decades’ armistice and reconstruction plans and treaties.

  9. Jodi says:

    Old conspiracy theories just keep rising from the grave!

    The movie should be entitled â€The Night of the Living Dead Conspiracy.â€

  10. Anonymous says:

    I read Valerie’s book and learned of Joe Wilson’s history of having lived in France and also having a former French wife. Did the French Government have any ties to Joe Wilson going to check out the Niger story AND the NYT op-ed?

    I ask this because it seems linked, the French gov’t was in charge of reviewing the uranium in Niger, I believe, and with the boycotting of French fries, not to mention the comments by Rumsfeld about France, there has got to more to this side of the story.

    Which makes me wonder how close the new French president is to ours and why?

  11. Sara says:

    eyesonthestreet,– Important to remember that virtually all of Joe’s African postings were to Frankaphone African Countries — with the exception of one to South Africa, which he left early in favor of a move to Burundi. Virtually all of the Uranium deposits in Africa are in French speaking former French and Belgium colonies, some were actually developed before WWII, and the dates for keeping track of mined Uranium (and keeping the Germans away from it given their occupation of France and Belgium) date back that far. Any American Diplomat — particularly a political officer, would have been tasked from that period on to follow this aspect of the French-Belgium mining sector. While I suppose Joe Wilson can’t set it out in clear terms, any good look at why the US was so involved — as indeed was the CIA — in the early 60’s Independence of the Congo, has to do with this strategic mineral. Much of the following of the French managed Mining consortia in the Congo would have been done from Burundi, which is much closer to the mines than the Congo Capitals. So Just a Guess — Joe had lots of experience watching the French manage this strategic material over perhaps 20+years. Niger is just another mine in the same consortia. Remember, the French built out Nuclear Electrical production to the point that today about 80% of their electricity is Nuclear — and they process for many other countries, and sell finished Nuclear Reactors for electrical production to a number of countries. I am sure that the French got this business through agreements during the Eisenhower Administration — remember the Atoms for Peace program dating from about 1955? I would imagine an agreement supporting French development of this business proposition also included mutual sharing of information that might indicate proliferation of Nuclear Weapon systems. The French and American have quite common interests in this.

    As to the question regarding what Novak might have known given his conversation with Joe’s friend on the street regarding Joe’s wife — remember that Joe’s first phone call was not to Novak, it was to CNN’s Eason Jordan, then News Director, requesting him to keep Valerie and his Niger trip, out of it all. Joe feared Novak would use the information he had on Crossfire. So it was not just contemporary notes — it was several phone calls, of which there would be a clear record, and Jordan could (and perhaps was) asked to tell the Grand Jury about those calls. Joe was pretty clearly trying to save Valerie’s cover. In the process he set up a trail that could be easily followed.

    We need to think much bigger as to what this is all about. My own hypothesis is that the neo-con’s want to destroy both the practice and the underlying agreements about preventing nuclear proliferation. During the Cold War, the notion that having any Nuclear Weapon was essentially defensive, that mutual assured destruction essentially made the weapon useless as tactic or strategy dominated. I suspect much of this is about making them useful again — defeating less an enemy than a doctrine.

  12. phred says:

    Sara — your last point is an excellent one. It is clear this administration advocates the use of offensive war (as opposed to only raising an army for the purpose of national defense). It must chafe the neocons terribly that we have a weapon that they are not allowed to use. This restriction limits their ability to achieve their imperial ambitions. Your comment goes a long way to clarify for me what precisely BushCo is up to with all their belligerent statements about using nukes to take out future Iranian nukes. They are simply telling the world that we are willing and able to use nuclear weapons for a first strike.

    It begs the question though why they think mutual assured destruction is off the table. Do they really think they could use nuclear devices without China and Russia retaliating? Does this further imply collusion among the super powers that they will tolerate the use of nukes on smaller countries? Either Bush and Cheney are more delusional than I had really imagined, or there are some really frightening behind the scenes machinations that I had never considered. I don’t tend to go in for conspiracy theories, which brings me back to the first option… Are Bush and Cheney really that stupid?

  13. Sara says:

    Phred, since I think Bush is afflicted with some sort of Attention defecit disorder, I seriously doubt if he has worked his way through the nuances of the doctrines that prevailed during the Cold War, and to some degree survive. Cheney, in contrast probably has, and has bought into the Neo-con position that they are indeed usable weapons. I suspect when the more full and accurate history of this period is written, we will find a hell of an argument between Cheney and some rational Military Leaders (as has been suggested by Seymour Hersh), and others in State and the Dept of Energy, who are quite unpersuaded by the Neo-con arguments. I suspect more than anything else, this argument was the cause for the replacement of Rumsfeld and the people around him, with the far more sober Bob Gates, who is a product of the core cold war doctrines.

  14. phred says:

    Thanks for the follow up Sara. So who forced Rummy out? Who had the influence with Bush to replace him with Gates? I’m surprised given Cheney’s stranglehold on Bush’s foreign policy that Cheney willingly went along with the change. And if Cheney’s influence was at a low ebb at that point, how did he regain it as he appears to have done now?

  15. phred says:

    Thanks for the follow up Sara. So who forced Rumsfeld out? Someone else must have won that match with Cheney. Yet now we seem to be back to a world where Cheney has more influence than Gates, how did that happen I wonder? And I wonder whether Gates will be able to hold him in check…

  16. phred says:

    Huh, typepad told me it lost my first try, so now you have two versions of more or less the same comment. Go figure…

  17. Jodi says:

    Hey, and this is for curiosity only, what did Joe Wilson’s French wife do for a living. I heard it stated that ~he had a French wife with an unusual occupation.~ Well that certainly makes your ears perk up!

  18. Sara says:

    As to the removal of Rumsfeld and company — I think it was executed by Jim Baker with a good deal of help from Barbara Bush, who apparently has far more emotional control of Bush than his Father. It happened a few weeks before the election last fall when Bush spent a long weekend in Maine. I suspect the eventual removal of Rove was also part of the deal. I also think it was very much an outgrowth of the work Baker did with the Iraq Study Group, and in the process he probably made some tacit deals with Democrats through Hamilton, and perhaps Panetta who would in a sense represent the Clintons. The removal of Rumsfeld in favor of Gates who is not a neo-con, and not part of the Cheney Circles, essentially cut Cheney out of his former easy access to Pentagon matters. Gates has rather systematicly cleaned Cheney people out of the Pentagon. I would not be surprised to see the new AG begin to clean Gonzales and Cheney people (the ones left) out of DoJ. I would not be surprised to eventually discover that Baker had something to do with Gonzales’s eventual decision to resign from DoJ, and the bit about Charles Schumer being â€asked†to recommend a replacement is typical Baker. In essence, it is about keeping Bush Standing till his term ends, and avoiding a passion for impeachment, which would never happen, given the Senate. One reason I just can’t get excited about impeachment talk is precisely because I think the old deal maker, Jim Baker, has taken a hand in trying to avoid it with a deal that exchanges removal or loss of power of the worst of Bush’s circle, for a certain amount of forebearance on the part of Democrats.

    And there is a good argument as to why such a deal is in Democrat’s interests. It really does put the Democrats in a position to, if they play it smart, actually win a true governing mandate in 2008, and not only gain stronger control in congress, but have the WH, and the ability to institute programs that are part of that mandate. Essentially, I think that is the deal.

  19. phred says:

    Sara, so given your view, Cheney will continue to be marginalized. Do you think all this noise about Iran is a last gasp on Cheney’s part to exert some influence, before he is shut out completely by the Baker faction?

    If this scenario is correct and if it is successful, then perhaps I will reconsider some of my criticism of the Dem leadership. But it is hard to imagine what deal, could have been given to the Dems to compensate for their capitulation on fundamental constitutional issues. Perhaps it was something as stark as if you don’t work with us (Baker) then we won’t restrain Cheney’s ambitions. That, in and of itself, would be a level of blackmail richly deserving impeachment of Bush by the Dems.

    Perhaps the deals you suggest are the better part of valor, but the Dems are giving voters fewer reasons to support them by the day. And with the machinations of government so utterly shrouded in secrecy, who will ever know whether the Dems were actually conducting the affairs of state with the best interest of the public and Constitution at heart? If the Dems have managed to avert disaster in Iran, then I will be grateful. But it seems to me that in the grand scheme of things that is setting the bar pretty damn low.

  20. JohnLopresti says:

    Interesting UK Guardian senior reporters’ discussion of Armitage responsibility for administration’s negotiations with Pakistan and scapegoating one individual to mask a more complex foreign policy early in Bush2’s 1st term; evidently our region airing of the program precedes airing over parent WHYY which is broadcasting now.

  21. Sara says:

    John, I heard about half the NPR program with the Guardian Journalists — gotta go get their book on Pakistan tomorrow. Sounds great. Tonight I finish Valerie Plame Wilson’s book — 40 pages to go or so, and I have to make something of a start on Vincent Bugliosi’s 1600 pager on the Kennedy Assassination. I have promised myself, Half by November 22.

    Phred — I am one who believes in the notion of â€Establishment†— and I see Baker less as doing a rescue mission on Baby Bush, more on Daddy Bush’s place in the Establishment, and any continued influence in power circles for the family — though in reality I think they have shot their wad. One needs to realize that not only has Jr. Bush had the worst Presidency ever — but he destroyed the Republican Party as he inherited it. And Building the Republican Party was GHWBush’s effort from the late 40’s onward.

    I fully expect Hillary to get the Democratic Nomination, and get elected. (did you note the shit that was piled on Giuliani tonight with the Judith Reagan law suit on both KO and Dan Abrams?) This Reagan suit is not only about Rudy, and Newscorp, it is about Murdoch, who may now own the Wall Street Journal, but might woe the day he bought it. He may own it, but his agents may have been involved in pushing Giuliani and Kerick forward via demanding that Reagan commit obstruction of Justice, and that could put his assets on the block for what they can bring. The old Establishment has its ways of arranging such falls from grace. At least right now that is my hypothesis. Giulaini is a problem for them — do they sign on with the Mafia linkage (and Giulaini is not only mob linked, he is Benito Mussolini linked,) and I suspect that the Establishment clan has some reservations about that, just as I think they are also developing cautions about the pressures of the Israel Lobby.

  22. phred says:

    Sara — Oh, I definitely got your point that the Baker rescue mission was about the Establishment and not about saving W from himself. I’m just trying to understand who holds the real power within the Republican establishment and how do they wield that power when Bush and Cheney occupy the White House and appear to be prepared to take the Republicans in a radically new direction. I’m also curious why the Establishment Republicans haven’t had a word or two with key members in Congress. It appears to me that Congressional Republicans continue to vote in lockstep with Bush’s policies. Surely, the Establishament can see that this will come back to haunt the Republicans in the long run.

    It was the Republicans who finally told Nixon he had to go. And as I understand it, they did it to preserve the future of the party. It seems to me the current Establishment ought to be concerned about the same thing. Yet thus far, I see no evidence that they are willing to make a public break with Bush and Cheney. Perhaps they believe the electoral process is so completely rigged at this point and the choices among candidates so limited that they will rally in a cycle or two and have no needed for any public rift. But it baffles me that they continue to support this failed administration. If only for their own self-interest, they ought to start staking out new positions and repudiating the President’s failures.

    By the way, I didn’t see KO (I don’t watch much television), so I’ll have to go check out the lawsuit you mention. So who do you think the Establishment backs for the Republican nomination? McCain?

    And John thanks for the link. I’m looking forward to reading that book.