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Richard Armitage, the accidential leaker: Patrick Fitzgerald, what took you so long?


Chicago based U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald spent years and tons of money investigating the Valerie Plame leak.....and it turns out the leaker, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, came forward early on....and admitted to a grand jury he passed on the information to Robert Novak and Bob Woodward.....still, Fitzgerald couldn't wrap things up early on.....

Armitage is going the disclosure was inadvertent.....finally talking after being unmasked in a new book, "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War'' by Michael Isikoff of Newsweek and David Corn of The Nation.

(CBS) In an exclusive interview with CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, Richard Armitage, once the No. 2 diplomat at the State Department, couldn't be any blunter.

"Oh I feel terrible. Every day, I think I let down the president. I let down the Secretary of State. I let down my department, my family and I also let down Mr. and Mrs. Wilson," he says.

When asked if he feels he owes the Wilsons an apology, he says, "I think I've just done it."

In July 2003, Armitage told columnist Robert Novak that Ambassador Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, and Novak mentioned it in a column. It's a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover CIA officer. But Armitage didn't yet realize what he had done.

So, what exactly did he tell Novak?

"At the end of a wide-ranging interview he asked me, 'Why did the CIA send Ambassador (Wilson) to Africa?' I said I didn't know, but that she worked out at the agency," Armitage says.

Armitage says he told Novak because it was "just an offhand question." "I didn't put any big import on it and I just answered and it was the last question we had," he says.

Armitage adds that while the document was classified, "it doesn't mean that every sentence in the document is classified.

"I had never seen a covered agent's name in any memo in, I think, 28 years of government," he says.

He adds that he thinks he referred to Wilson's wife as such, or possibly as "Mrs. Wilson." He never referred to her as Valerie Plame, he adds.

"I didn't know the woman's name was Plame. I didn't know she was an operative," he says.

He says he was reading Novak's newspaper column again, on Oct. 1, 2003, and "he said he was told by a non-partisan gun slinger."

"I almost immediately called Secretary Powell and said, 'I'm sure that was me,'" Armitage says.

Armitage immediately met with FBI agents investigating the leak.

"I told them that I was the inadvertent leak," Armitage says. He didn't get a lawyer, however.

"First of all, I felt so terrible about what I'd done that I felt I deserved whatever was coming to me. And secondarily, I didn't need an attorney to tell me to tell the truth. I as already doing that," Armitage explains. "I was not intentionally outing anybody. As I say, I have tremendous respect for Ambassador. Wilson's African credentials. I didn't know anything about his wife and made an offhand comment. I didn't try to out anybody."

That was nearly three years ago, but the political firestorm over who leaked Valerie Plame's identity continued to burn as Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald began hauling White House officials and journalists before a grand jury.

Armitage says he didn't come forward because "the special counsel, once he was appointed, asked me not to discuss this and I honored his request."

"I thought every day about how I'd screwed up," he adds.

Armitage never did tell the president, but he's talking now because Fitzgerald told him he could.


How did novak get the maiden name? Really?

I hate to say this someone needs to say they are sorry to Rove

I am anything but a Rove fan. However, the media and critics this time need to do the honorable thing and apologize to Karl Rove for all the finger-pointing directed at him over this issue.

Excellent outline of events but I see Armitage failed to apologize to Rove, Libby, or Cheney, not to mention others in the WH that were smeared by false accusations.

isn't about time someone held Novak accountable.

Does he still work at the Sun-Times and if so why.

Typical liberals accuse first , then get facts later. Never admit their own guilt, just like Teddy Kennedy when he drove off that bridge.

Read Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn which just came out. It has the real scoop. It wasn't just Armitage who leaked her name. Remember Cheney's handwritten notes on the editorial? Libby, Rove and Cheney were also talking. Interesting that Plame was a covert agent working on WMD in Iraq, no?

Armitage "accidentally" told Novak 2 days after Wilson's op-ed in the New York Times, and we are supposed to believe he had no idea that Novak, no partisan gunslinger himself (hint: HEAVY SARCASM), would use any and all information provided to attack Wilson. Novak then, despite pleadings from a CIA official, publishes Valerie Plame's name. Of course, the whole affair was soooo innocent! And now, the Senate Intelligence Committee reports the CIA was telling the White House pre-war that the White House assertions/assumptions to support war were wrong - supporting Mr. Wilson's claims!

Yet, you decide to attack Mr. Fitzgerald. Repugnant. We are out billions of dollars, lives lost, people wounded, and resources diverted away from truly protecting ourselves from terror.

Armitage's confession doesn't get Libby off the hook. Libby lied his head off. Look at this statement his lawyer made when Judy Miller got out of jail to testify, obviously before they knew that her testimony and notes would disprove this:

"Tate said his client (Libby) did not know or hear about Plame's identity until it appeared in a newspaper column by Robert Novak. "Scooter did not know the name until he saw it in the Novak article," he said. "

Since the timeline didn't work out for that little lie, Mr. Faulty Memory then remembers with absolute certainty that Mr. Russert had told him. Only that plan didn't work out either. He's nailed.

The fact that Armitage blabbed doesn't mean Libby or Rove didn't. They were talking to other reporters. Armitage did not know Plame was classified, and he did not (as far as we know) call Libby or Rove and say he accidentally had blabbed Plame's name. So how does it help Libby that Armitage told? Is that the standard with getting away with leaking classified material? As long as somebody else leaked it first AND you don't even know they leaked it, it's okay for you to do so? Sorry, but Mr. Fitzgerald is right to pursue this.

So let me get this straight, someone leaks valerie plame name to bob novak, peter fitzgerald is hired to find out the name of the leaker, richard armitage goes to fitzgerald and tells him he leaked valerie plames name to novak, peter fitzgerald continues to spend millions of taxpayer dollars and keeps going an investigation even though he knows the identity of the leaker, peter fitzgerald then indicts scooter libby for not being truthful over a name that mr fitzgerald already knows, it seems to me that mr fitzgerald went to the mike nifong school of law and graduated number 1 in his class.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on September 8, 2006 9:06 AM.

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