Back in summer of 2003, Bob Novak wrote an article that really chapped the Democrats’ hide. In it, Novak tied together Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger with Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, and her job at the CIA.
Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.
Howls of outrage from the Left! Wilson called for Karl Rove to be handcuffed and frog-marched out of the White House for revealing his wife’s position at the CIA. Heads must roll! Interestingly enough, Novak wrote the column in July, but it wasn’t until months later that Wilson started to freak out about the article. I thought then that was an interesting delay, and I still do. This affair led to a special prosecutor being called to investigate. Three years later, there has been only one arrest: that of Lewis “Scooter” Libby on charges of perjury. That’s three years and millions of taxpayer dollars well spent, huh?
So who actually named Valerie Plame to Novak? We now know that it was Richard Armitage, then Secretary of State Colin Powell’s number 2 man in the State Department, who blabbed this information to Novak. Michael Isikoff wrote of Armitage in his recent Newsweek article:
Armitage, a well-known gossip who loves to dish and receive juicy tidbits about Washington characters, apparently hadn’t thought through the possible implications of telling Novak about Plame’s identity. “I’m afraid I may be the guy that caused this whole thing,” he later told Carl Ford Jr., State’s intelligence chief. Ford says Armitage admitted to him that he had “slipped up” and told Novak more than he should have.
Oops! Well, no harm, no foul, right? Right. Go ask Scooter Libby how he feels about Armitage’s blabbing, since Libby is the only one whose feet are in the fire over the issue. I find it interesting that three years of investigation never turned up who really told Novak about Valerie Plame. Here’s a relevant paragraph from a Washington Post article from today:
It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House — that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame’s identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson — is untrue. The partisan clamor that followed the raising of that allegation by Mr. Wilson in the summer of 2003 led to the appointment of a special prosecutor, a costly and prolonged investigation, and the indictment of Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on charges of perjury. All of that might have been avoided had Mr. Armitage’s identity been known three years ago.
Ah, but his identity was known! From Isikoff’s article: “Powell, Armitage and [the State Department's legal adviser William Howard Taft IV], the only three officials at the State Department who knew the story, never breathed a word of it publicly and Armitage’s role remained secret.” And since this whole affair has been a political punching-bag for the White House for years, why did these three people remain mysteriously quiet? They could have spoken up at any time to bring this over-hyped and over-inflated scandal to a swift end–and as members of the Bush administration, they should have spoken up. But they didn’t, apparently preferring to let Scooter Libby twist in the wind. For this reason alone, I am glad that Colin Powell is no longer Secretary of State.
But Powell, Armitage, and Taft are not the only people to blame in this affair. Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald spent three years investigating this crap, and the only indictment was against Libby for lying under oath. That lying, if it actually occurred, was a direct result of Fitzgerald’s investigation. If there had been no investigation, no perjury would have occurred. So here’s how I look at Fitzgerald’s handling of the Plame investigation: either he knew about Armitage, and still chose to hound the White House for three years, making him guilty of malfeasance; or he spent three years investigating the issue and never turned up Armitage’s name, making him guilty of ineptitude. So which is it, Fitzgerald? Are you guilty of malfeasance or ineptitude?
So let’s sum things up. There was no plot to reveal Valerie Plame’s name, nor her job at the CIA. Her name was not revealed to punish Wilson. The White House didn’t conspire to cover up anything. And Wilson’s claim that Iraq didn’t go to Africa seeking uranium has also been proven false.
President Bush should publicly chastize Powell, Armitage, and Taft for staying silent (for shame!), and just as publicly pardon Libby for being embroiled in this whole lame Plame blame.