Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another myth debunked: ending the Plame game

It's nearly official: the Valerie Plame leaker was Richard Armitage -- the Colin Powell deputy who is not a neocon, not a Cheney ally, not a partisan, not a Bushie from the inner circle, and not an intentional discloser of a CIA employee's identity.

That information comes from a new book co-authored by Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Isikoff and The Nation editor David Corn. Corn is one of the major proponents of the theory that the Bush Administration "outed" Plame to retaliate for her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV's, editorial in the NY Times describing (and lying about) his trip to Niger. But the book debunks Corn's own theory, as Byron York notes:

Whatever Armitage’s motives, the fact that he was the Novak leaker undermines — destroys, actually — the conspiracy theory of the CIA-leak case. According to Isikoff, in an excerpt of Hubris published in Newsweek: “The disclosures about Armitage, gleaned from interviews with colleagues, friends and lawyers directly involved in the case, underscore one of the ironies of the Plame investigation: 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 apparent intention of harming anyone…”

It’s an extraordinary admission coming from Isikoff’s co-author Corn, one of the leading conspiracy theorists of the CIA-leak case. “The Plame leak in Novak’s column has long been cited by Bush administration critics as a deliberate act of payback, orchestrated to punish and/or discredit Joe Wilson after he charged that the Bush administration had misled the American public about the prewar intelligence,” Corn and Isikoff write. “The Armitage news does not fit neatly into that framework.”

Apparently the authors said that with no notion of irony considering that Corn himself was front-and-center in the chorus of critics who claimed the leak was "evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent."

The Wall Street Journal notes how the State Department acted against the President's own interest in discovering and unmasking the leaker and how that disloyalty is merely part of a pattern within the State Department:

. . . according to the Corn-Isikoff book, Mr. Armitage never did tell the White House or his boss, the President, that he was the leaker. Instead, in October 2003 he told Mr. Powell, who told the State Department general counsel, who in turn told the Justice Department but gave the White House Counsel only the sketchiest overview of what he'd learned and didn't mention Mr. Armitage's name. So while Mr. Fitzgerald presumably knew when he began his probe two months later that Mr. Armitage was Mr. Novak's source, the President himself was apparently kept in the dark, even as he was pledging publicly to find out who the leaker was.

At a minimum, there appears to be a serious question of disloyalty here. By keeping silent, Messrs. Powell and Armitage let the President take political heat for the case, while also letting Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby and other White House officials twist in the wind for more than two years. We also know that it was the folks in Mr. Powell's shop--including his former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson and intelligence officer Carl Ford Jr.--who did so much to trash John Bolton's nomination to be Ambassador to the U.N. in 2005. The State Department clique that Mr. Bush tolerated for so long did tremendous damage to his Administration.

What a fiasco. Worse yet, the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald knew immediately upon his appointment the identity of Novak's source:

So in October 2003 the investigation began. FBI agents quickly talked to Armitage, Rove, and others. And guess what? Armitage told the FBI that he was Novak’s source. And Rove told the FBI that he was Novak’s secondary source (that is, he had confirmed what Novak had already learned from Armitage). Within days of beginning the investigation, the Justice Department had answered the question that started it.

Things should have stopped right there. FBI investigators knew who the leakers were; they knew that no one had violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or any other national-security law; and they knew there had been no White House conspiracy to attack a critic. Yet then–attorney general John Ashcroft, apparently afraid of the political repercussions of doing the right thing, allowed the investigation to go forward. He recused himself and handed the case over to top Justice Department official James Comey, who then also bowed to political pressure and appointed his friend Patrick Fitzgerald — already busy with his job as the U.S. attorney in Chicago — to head the probe.

In other words, Ashcroft refused to take the proper course of action due to political fallout and appearance of impropriety, sought to insulate himself and the Justice Department from conflict-of-interest accusations and approved the independent counsel who has wasted millions in taxpayer dollars to find that no crime occurred. Genius.

As I noted before, this whole mess was just a Democrat witchhunt, led by liars (Wilson), fanned on by the Left, and abetted by backstabbers (State Dept.). And it was all much ado about nothing, as John Tierney said best.

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