As we noted earlier, Woodward described the conversation with his unnamed source as an off—hand one ,denigrating the significance of the Wilson Mission. Woodward indicated this further information about his source:
In the final weeks before the grand jury indicted vice presidential aide I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby on Oct. 28 for perjury and obstruction of justice, Woodward says he was asked by Downie to help report on the status of the probe. In the course of his reporting, Woodward says, "I learned something more" about the disclosure of Plame's identity, which prompted him to admit to Downie for the first time that he had been told of Plame's CIA job by a senior administration official in mid June 2003.
In his press conference announcing Libby's indictment, Fitzgerald noted that, "Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson."
Woodward realized, given that the indictment stated Libby disclosed the information to New York Times reporter Miller on June 23, that Libby was not the first official to talk about Wilson's wife to a reporter. Woodward himself had received the information earlier.
According to Woodward, that triggered a call to his source. "I said it was clear to me that the source had told me [about Wilson's wife] in mid—June," says Woodward, "and this person could check his or her records and see that it was mid—June. My source said he or she had no alternative but to go to the prosecutor. I said, 'If you do, am I released?'", referring to the confidentiality agreement between the two. The source said yes, but only for purposes of discussing it with Fitzgerald, not for publication.
Woodward said he had tried twice before, once in 2004 and once earlier this year, to persuade the source to remove the confidentiality restriction, but with no success.
Asked if this was the first time his source had spoken with Fitzgerald in the investigation, Woodward said "I'm not sure. It's quite possibly not the first time." But it is the first time Woodward had contact with Fitzgerald, even though Woodward's name shows up on various White House officials' calendars, phone logs and other records during June and July, 2003, the time frame that is critical to determining whether a crime was committed when information about Plame's employment was shared with reporters. Those White House records were turned over to Fitzgerald long ago.
Armitage was interviewed by investigators working for the Special Prosecutor, though it is not known whether he was under oath when he was questioned. And he was a source for Woodward's book Plan of Attack.
Jack Kelly agrees with the gang at Tom Maguire's many of whom believe that Richard Armitage is the likeliest source of the leak to Bob Woodward of Plame's name and employment at the CIA:
But what really makes Mr. Woodward, in the delicious phrase of Web logger Mark Coffey, "the Grinch who stole Fitzmas," is his admission that it might have been he who mentioned to Mr. Libby that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the CIA:
"Woodward's revelation undermined the prosecutor's claim that Libby was working to out Wilson's wife, since Woodward revealed he spoke to Libby twice about Iraq's weapons around that time, but Libby never mentioned her," wrote Deborah Orin of the New York Post.
Mr. Fitzgerald has a lot of egg to wipe off his face, said Web logger Tom Maguire: "Fitzgerald blew it — he had White House phone logs, he had sign—in sheets, he had testimony from many, many people; he had two years and still, somehow, he did not include Bob Woodward on his contacts—of—interest list."
When he finishes wiping the egg off his face, Mr. Fitzgerald should dismiss the indictment against Mr. Libby, say two former Justice Department officials.
Speculation among journalists in Washington now rages over who it was that told Mr. Woodward about Ms. Plame. Mr. Woodward said he talked to three "present and former" administration officials in June, 2003. One was Mr. Libby. Another was White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who Mr. Woodward has said wasn't his source. Could it have been then Secretary of State Colin Powell or his deputy, Richard Armitage? Stay tuned.
One of the tantalizing clues that Armitage may have been Woodward's source comes from the transcript of the July 14, 2003 Greta van Susteren show. Armitage was asked about Wilson's claims, and his comments were fairly innocuous, but intriguingly place him on Tenet's "team" and are fully consistent with Novak's story (disclosing that Plame worked for the CIA) from the same day:
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of the controversy that's been going on the last couple days about the statement that the president had in his State of the Union that there —— that Saddam was getting some uranium from Africa, and that that made it into the State of the Union, and apparently, the intelligence community in this country, up until that point, said it was not true?
ARMITAGE: I think Secretary Powell said the other day it's overblown, overdrawn and overwrought. There's quite a frenzy about it, and it's a pretty small item. We didn't go to war because of some report about Uranium in Niger. I think at least political Washington is quite shocked that someone like George Tenet, our excellent director of the Central Intelligence Agency, would stand up and actually accept responsibility for this. And they don't know how to deal with it, and so they're gumming it to death.
VAN SUSTEREN: How does a mistake like that happen? Is it the bureaucracy?
ARMITAGE: I think that's exactly —— it's a mistake. It's not good. It was a bad thing, but it was a mistake. And it just happened. Someone took their eye off the ball. George Tenet accepted responsibility, and it's a really stand—up thing to do."
Thus, Armitage shared the views of Woodward's unnamed source, who by his account, revealed this information——not to retaliate against Wilson or his wife——but in a conversation downplaying the significance of Wilson's Mission and findings. That is, in conversations with other reporters he was (as was Rove) downplaying the story( a brushoff both truthful and warranted as the subsequent SSCI report found).
The Armitage hypothesis also fits Downie's comment that the information was mentioned to Woodward in passing by a source who was extensively interviewed for Woodward's book.
It also seems more and more certain that there were 3 or more independent sources for the Plame information, each leaked to various favorables in the media. Wilson to Kristof, Pincus, and Corn; Armitage to Woodward; and someone else to Novak. And contrary to the Wilson story ——apparently accepted by the Prosecutor and now ridiculously enough part of the muddled common wisdom——none of the Administration sources were doing so in a concerted effort to "retaliate" against the self—described "whistleblower", but rather in an effort to set the record straight against the charges of a serial liar.
Given the pre—conceived notion under which the Special Prosecutor operated and the constricted questioning of reporters who were asked only about what Rove and Libby told them, the investigation was unlikely to confirm Libby's defense —— that he'd heard it first from reporters. But in time, his position seems more and more tenable and it is increasingly likely that far more reporters knew about Plame and did so earlier than Fitzgerald knows and knew it from multiple sources.
But one thing is even clearer. Like all his other claims now debunked, Wilson's story of a White House retaliation against him is an utter fable. It was from the outset where the "evidence" consisted of reporters calling the White House, not the White House officials calling the press.
Woodward put the final stake in it, though the true believers stricken with Bush Derangement Syndrome cannot yet accept that.
Clarice Feldman 11 19 05