Special Report misled on the alleged roles of Armitage, Rove, and Libby in CIA leak case
Research ››› ››› SIMON MALOY
On Special Report, Jim Angle reported that Michael Isikoff and David Corn, in their new book, "seem[ed] to clear him [former deputy State Secretary Richard Armitage] from any intentional wrongdoing." But Angle then contrasted Armitage's situation with that of Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, "who only confirmed what Armitage had originally told reporters, [but] are accused of maliciously attacking [former ambassador Joe] Wilson."
On the August 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, during a segment on a new book by Newsweek investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff and The Nation's Washington editor David Corn identifying former deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as columnist Robert D. Novak's original source for the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame, Fox News chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle reported that Isikoff and Corn "seem[ed] to clear him [Armitage] from any intentional wrongdoing." But Angle then contrasted Armitage's situation with that of White House senior adviser Karl Rove and former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, "who only confirmed what Armitage had originally told reporters, [but] are accused of maliciously attacking [former ambassador Joe] Wilson." In fact, Rove and Libby were reportedly the original sources of the information for at least two reporters. Angle also claimed that it was "odd" that Libby, but not Armitage, was indicted by special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. However, Angle's suggestion that Libby was indicted for leaking Plame's identity is untrue -- Libby was charged with lying to federal investigators and the grand jury about his role in the controversy and then of attempting to cover it up.
Isikoff and Corn's book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (Crown), is due out in September.
Then-Time magazine White House correspondent Matthew Cooper, in his first-person account of his testimony before the grand jury in the CIA leak investigation, identified Rove as his original source for Plame's identity and Libby as his confirming source. Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller identified Libby as her primary source for Plame's identity. Corn noted in an August 27 entry to his "Capitol Games" Nation weblog that Armitage's role in the Plame leak -- whatever it may have been -- does not undermine the allegation that there was a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" to "discredit, punish, or seek revenge against" Wilson, Plame's husband, who accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence on Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction. Corn wrote:
The Armitage leak was not directly a part of the White House's fierce anti-Wilson crusade. But as Hubris notes, it was, in a way, linked to the White House effort, for Amitage [sic] had been sent a key memo about Wilson's trip that referred to his wife and her CIA connection, and this memo had been written, according to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, at the request of I. Lewis Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff. Libby had asked for the memo because he was looking to protect his boss from the mounting criticism that Bush and Cheney had misrepresented the WMD intelligence to garner public support for the invasion of Iraq.
The memo included information on Valerie Wilson's role in a meeting at the CIA that led to her husband's trip. This critical memo was -- as Hubris discloses -- based on notes that were not accurate. (You're going to have to read the book for more on this.) But because of Libby's request, a memo did circulate among State Department officials, including Armitage, that briefly mentioned Wilson's wife.
Armitage's role aside, the public record is without question: senior White House aides wanted to use Valerie Wilson's CIA employment against her husband. Rove leaked the information to Cooper, and Libby confirmed Rove's leak to Cooper. Libby also disclosed information on Wilson's wife to New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
Also, Angle noted that it was "odd" that "Libby was indicted, but Richard Armitage, the original source, was not," and he aired a clip of Republican lawyer Victoria Toensing pronouncing it "a puzzlement" that "the prosecutor decided that Scooter Libby and Dick Armitage were to be treated differently under the law." Fitzgerald, however, secured an indictment against Libby not for leaking Plame's identity, but for perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to the FBI relating to the leak investigation. Armitage has not been accused of those crimes or any other, as Corn noted:
The unnamed government sources also told us about what happened three months later when Novak wrote a column noting that his original source was "no partisan gunslinger." After reading that October 1 column, Armitage called his boss and long-time friend, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and acknowledged he was Novak's source. Powell, Armitage and William Taft IV, the State Department's top lawyer, frantically conferred about what to do. As Taft told us (on the record), "We decided we were going to tell [the investigators] what we thought had happened." Taft notified the criminal division of the Justice Department -- which was then handling the investigation -- and FBI agents interviewed Armitage the next day. In that interview, Armitage admitted he had told Novak about Wilson's wife and her employment at the CIA.
Fitzgerald, as Hubris notes, investigated Armitage twice -- once for the Novak leak; then again for not initially telling investigators about his conversation with Woodward. Each time, Fitzgerald decided not to prosecute Armitage. Abiding by the rules governing grand jury investigations, Fitzgerald said nothing publicly about Armitage's role in the leak.
From the August 28 edition of Special Report:
ANGLE: The official explained Wilson's wife, who worked on these issues at the CIA, had suggested him for the mission. Even though Corn and Isikoff say Armitage was the original source, they seem to clear him from any intentional wrongdoing, saying that the initial leak seized on by administration critics as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent came from a man who had no attention of harming anyone.
But Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby, who only confirmed what Armitage had originally told reporters, are accused of maliciously attacking Wilson.
ANGLE: There are two odd things about the events as they are now known. One: why "Scooter" Libby was indicted but Richard Armitage, the original source, was not.
TOENSING: It is a puzzlement why the prosecutor decided that "Scooter" Libby and Dick Armitage were to be treated differently under the law.