May 19, 2006
The Case Against Libby WeakensBy Clarice Feldman
The Libby case has always tantalized the left with its imagined scent of corruption in the White House. Libby himself was a highly—placed target, but the blood lust raged for a bigger name. The left was gnawing their paws at the growing realization that Karl Rove probably won't be indicted, despite the Jason Leopold—sponsored rumor that swept the left blogosphere.
Now the Washington Note reports that Bobby Ray Inman, former head of the NSA, said that it was really Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's, Deputy who was in Fitzgerald's cross hairs.�
Just One Minute has had a lively discussion on the matter all yesterday following poster Windansea's spotting the article.�There is some� reason to think there is merit to the claim.� Among the reasons are these:
Armitage is widely believed to have been the source on Plame to both Novak and Woodward. Woodward has indicated he twice asked his source to relieve him of his pledge of confidentiality.
Armitage is also believed to be Novak's source. And Novak just appeared again before the grand jury.
Libby has asserted in his pleadings that there was in internecine battle going on between the CIA and Department of State on one hand and the Office of the Vice President on the other, and that warfare was hardly secret.
Armitage seems to have been the source of leaks about the White House response to the Wilson charges.
Marc�Grossman, an Undersecretary of State who worked under Armitage, was a personal friend of Wilson's for decades, beginning in college. Grossman may well have told Armitage the details about Plame, given their long history and close working relationship. In any event State Department officers knew a great deal more about the Wilsons than the White House did. Indeed, Wilson says he first told his story to friends at State and Grossman was his friend of longest standing there.
Rove reports that in his last grand jury appearance he was asked about his conversation with Novak. I think he has been under the microscope for so long because the Novak description of his conversation with Armitage may not have been complete or fully accurate, and therefore Rove's account of his talk with Novak may have seemed suspicious to Fitrzpatrick.
If the rumor is true, what does this do to the Libby case? Briefly, I think it weakens an already weak case.
In his press conference, Fitzgerald said Libby was the first to disclose Plame's identity. Shortly after that Woodward came forward with news that an unidentified official (probably Armitage) in fact was the first.� Moreover Woodward who had no reason to believe the information was classified said he told others, including Walter Pincus, a fellow Washington Post reporter and Libby himself. In fact, he wasn't sure how many others he told, though in a Vanity Fair article a former Post editor Ben Bradley indicated he was one of those told.
One of Libby's defenses is that he heard the news from other reporters or other officials who told him of reporters disclosing that information to him. If Armitage told Woodward in mid—June of 2003 and� Woodward told a number of other people, the likelihood of his version being true is greater.
Moreover, it makes it more likely that Russert's evasive testimony was hiding the fact that he knew about Wilson's wife but not her professional name or exact job, or that Libby confused the conversation with Russert (who had no notes of the talk) with another reporter——perhaps even Woodward.
In sum, it makes Libby's version of the events more plausible.
It also strengthens Libby's denial of Grossman's account of having given the Plame information to Libby , an account which Fitzgerald relied in the indictment . Libby suggests that in fact Grossman's account was shaded to protect his boss Armitage and as well reflected personal animus because of Grossman's long friendship with Wilson.
Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, D.C., and a frequent contributor.