Armitage takes hit for Rove

We just love all the crowing in the right-wing press about how Valerie Plame Wilson and the liberals who cheer her on are not going after Richard Armitage now that he has been revealed as the source of the leak exposing Plame as a CIA agent. This Aug. 31 piece by Byron York from the National Review is faily typical:

Will Joe and Valerie Wilson Sue Richard Armitage? No. They just want Cheney, Rove, and Libby.
The new attorney for Joseph and Valerie Wilson says the Wilsons do not plan to add former State Department official Richard Armitage to their lawsuit against top Bush administration officials because Armitage “did not act with the same level of malevolence” as Vice President Dick Cheney, top White House aide Karl Rove, and former Cheney aide Lewis Libby in the CIA-leak affair.

In July, the Wilsons sued Cheney, Rove, and Libby, along with ten other un-named co-defendants, charging that were part of a conspiracy to “discredit, punish and seek revenge against the plaintiffs that included, among other things, disclosing to members of the press Plaintiff Valerie Plame Wilson’s classified CIA employment.” Armitage was not named in the suit.

This week, a new book, Hubris, by the Nation’s David Corn and Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, confirmed widespread rumors that Armitage was the original leaker in the CIA controversy.

A few weeks ago, the Wilsons made changes in their legal team, joining forces with the liberal advocacy group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW). The Wilsons also hired the San Francisco-based firm Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy. Constitutional lawyer Erwin Chemerinsky, who helped write the lawsuit, remains with the case.

Melanie Sloan, the executive director of CREW, is now the lead attorney for the Wilsons. In an interview with National Review Online, she said that if the account of Armitage’s outing of Plame in Hubris is correct, then “Armitage was just basically gossiping with [columnist Robert] Novak and just mentioned that Valerie worked for the CIA. His mentioning that to Novak is really not the same as the concerted effort that Cheney, Rove, and Libby made to get Valerie’s undercover identity out to the newspaper.”

“The underlying heart of the suit is about the conspiracy of these individuals to out Valerie Wilson in order to retaliate against Joseph Wilson,” Sloan continued, “and it doesn’t look at this point that Armitage was party to that plan.”

When asked about reports that Armitage told not only Novak about Mrs. Wilson, but also the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, Sloan answered, “Woodward never printed it.”

“I’m not trying to say that what Armitage did was just fine,” Sloan continued. “It is obviously not OK. But it did not have the same level of malevolence as what Rove, Cheney, and Libby were trying to do, which was to out Valerie to punish Joseph.”

Sloan said that “there is still a lot that we don’t know” about the CIA leak matter, and that if it were shown that Armitage was part of a White House conspiracy, then he might be added to the lawsuit. But she said it doesn’t look like that is the case. “He didn’t even know that she was covert,” Sloan said of Armitage.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is best known for its filing of ethics complaints against members of Congress, the overwhelming majority of them Republicans. Sloan is a former aide to Democratic lawmakers John Conyers and Charles Schumer.

If the Plame-Wilsons are buying the line that Armitage is either a nice guy or out of the Rove-Cheney loop, they are deluding themsleves. SourceWatch, a watchdog on the right wing, provides us with Armitage’s bona fides:

Richard L. Armitage, considered to be a conservative “neo con” (neo-conservative), is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is one of the signers of the January 26, 1998, Project for the New American Century (PNAC) letter to President William Jefferson Clinton. He is also a former board member for CACI International, the private military contractor, which “is being investigated by no less than 5 US agencies for possible contract violations” and “employed four interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison” in Iraq, one of whom was singled out by General Taguba in his report on abuses of Iraqi detainees at the prison.

Most recently, Richard Armitage was the President of Armitage Associates. Previously, he served with the rank of Ambassador as the Coordinator for Technical and Humanitarian Assistance to the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. President George Herbert Walker Bush appointed him as a Presidential Special Negotiator for the Philippines Military Base Agreement, a Special Mediator for Water in the Middle East and as a Special Emissary to Jordan during the 1991 Gulf War. In addition, Richard served in the Pentagon as Assistant Secretary of Defense and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy and then completed four tours of duty in Vietnam.

Richard Armitage, one of the Iran-Contra plotters, was a board member of Database Technologies (DBT)/ChoicePoint Inc before taking office under George Bush Jr. … Choicepoint is a partner of data mining company SAIC whose web site proclaims it has “developed a strategic alliance with ChoicePoint Incorporated to provide our clients with quick and effortless information retrieval from public records data. ChoicePoint Incorporated maintains thousands of gigabytes of public records data.

In the 1980 Reagan campaign Mr. Armitage was senior advisor to the Interim Foreign Policy Advisory Board, which prepared the President-Elect for major international policy issues confronting the new administration. From 1981 until June 1983 Mr. Armitage was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Pacific Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Armitage, who was denied a 1989 appointment as Assistant Secretary of State because of links to Iran-Contra and other scandals, served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Reagan years. U.S. Government stipulations in the Oliver North trial specifically named Armitage as one of the DoD officials responsible for illegal transfers of weapons to Iran and the Contras.

Gee, what a sweetheart. We have also noted his hardline bellicosity on Hezbollah and Iran.

The New York Times also notes that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald apparently knew that Armitage was the source of the leak but nonetheless kept the investigation going for two years–long enough to indict Scooter Libby. The headline says this raises “New Questions About Inquiry in C.I.A. Leak.” OK, but here’s another question: Is Armitage going to be indicted now? And if not, why not?

See our last post on the Plame affair.

  1. What Plame did at the CIA
    David Corn and Michael Isikoff have published a book on the Plame affair, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, which Corn provides some teasers from in a story posted September 6 on The Nation website. Some excerpts:

    The Novak column triggered a scandal and a criminal investigation. At issue was whether Novak’s sources had violated a little-known law that makes it a federal crime for a government official to disclose identifying information about a covert US officer (if that official knew the officer was undercover). A key question was, what did Valerie Wilson do at the CIA? Was she truly undercover? In a subsequent column, Novak reported that she was “an analyst, not in covert operations.” White House press secretary Scott McClellan suggested that her employment at the CIA was no secret. Jonah Goldberg of National Review claimed, “Wilson’s wife is a desk jockey and much of the Washington cocktail circuit knew that already.”

    Valerie Wilson was no analyst or paper-pusher. She was an operations officer working on a top priority of the Bush Administration. Armitage, Rove and Libby had revealed information about a CIA officer who had searched for proof of the President’s case. In doing so, they harmed her career and put at risk operations she had worked on and foreign agents and sources she had handled.

    Another issue was whether Valerie Wilson had sent her husband to Niger to check out an intelligence report that Iraq had sought uranium there. Hubris contains new information undermining the charge that she arranged this trip. In an interview with the authors, Douglas Rohn, a State Department officer who wrote a crucial memo related to the trip, acknowledges he may have inadvertently created a misimpression that her involvement was more significant than it had been.

    Valerie Plame was recruited into the CIA in 1985, straight out of Pennsylvania State University. After two years of training to be a covert case officer… In the early 1990s, she became what’s known as a nonofficial cover officer. NOCs are the most clandestine of the CIA’s frontline officers… She told people she was with an energy firm…

    In 1997 she returned to CIA headquarters and joined the Counterproliferation Division. (About this time, she moved in with Joseph Wilson; they later married.) She was eventually given a choice: North Korea or Iraq. She selected the latter. Come the spring of 2001, she was in the CPD’s modest Iraq branch. But that summer–before 9/11–word came down from the brass: We’re ramping up on Iraq. Her unit was expanded and renamed the Joint Task Force on Iraq. Within months of 9/11, the JTFI grew to fifty or so employees. Valerie Wilson was placed in charge of its operations group.

    There was great pressure on the JTFI to deliver… JTFI officers, under Wilson’s supervision, tracked down relatives, students and associates of Iraqi scientists–in America and abroad–looking for potential sources… Increasingly, Iraqi defectors were showing up at Western embassies claiming they had information on Saddam’s WMDs. JTFI officers traveled throughout the world to debrief them…

    She also went to Jordan to work with Jordanian intelligence officials who had intercepted a shipment of aluminum tubes heading to Iraq that CIA analysts were claiming–wrongly–were for a nuclear weapons program. (The analysts rolled over the government’s top nuclear experts, who had concluded the tubes were not destined for a nuclear program.)

    The JTFI found nothing. The few scientists it managed to reach insisted Saddam had no WMD programs. Task force officers sent reports detailing the denials into the CIA bureaucracy. The defectors were duds–fabricators and embellishers. (JTFI officials came to suspect that some had been sent their way by Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, an exile group that desired a US invasion of Iraq.) The results were frustrating for the officers… Valerie Wilson and other JTFI officers were almost too overwhelmed to consider the possibility that their small number of operations was, in a way, coming up with the correct answer: There was no intelligence to find on Saddam’s WMDs because the weapons did not exist. Still, she and her colleagues kept looking. (She also assisted operations involving Iran and WMDs.)

    When the war started in March 2003, JTFI officers were disappointed. “I felt like we ran out of time,” one CIA officer recalled. “The war came so suddenly. We didn’t have enough information to challenge the assumption that there were WMDs…. How do you know it’s a dry well? That Saddam was constrained. Given more time, we could have worked through the issue…. From 9/11 to the war–eighteen months–that was not enough time to get a good answer to this important question.”

    When the Novak column ran, Valerie Wilson was in the process of changing her clandestine status from NOC to official cover, as she prepared for a new job in personnel management. Her aim, she told colleagues, was to put in time as an administrator–to rise up a notch or two–and then return to secret operations. But with her cover blown, she could never be undercover again. Moreover, she would now be pulled into the partisan warfare of Washington. As a CIA employee still sworn to secrecy, she wasn’t able to explain publicly that she had spent nearly two years searching for evidence to support the Administration’s justification for war and had come up empty.

    Valerie Wilson left the CIA at the end of 2005. In July she and her husband filed a civil lawsuit against Cheney, Rove and Libby, alleging they had conspired to “discredit, punish and seek revenge against” the Wilsons. She is also writing a memoir. Her next battle may be with the agency–over how much of her story the CIA will allow the outed spy to tell.

  2. What Armitage did at the Pentagon
    From a June 1987 letter to the US Justice Department from the Burmese opium lord Khun Sa (not necessarily the most reliable source), online at the conspiracy-oriented website We The People (again, not necessarily the most reliable source):

    During the period (1965 – 1975) CIA Chief in Laos, Theodore Shackly, was in the drug business, having contacts with the Opium Warlord Lor Sing Han and his followers. Santo Trafficano [the Miami crime boss, actually spelled Santos Trafficante] acted as his buying and transporting agent while Richard Armitage [then a Pentagon attache in Saigon] handled the financial section with the Banks in Australia. Even after the Vietnam War ended, when Richard Armitage was being posted to the US Embassy in Thailand, his dealings in the drug business continued as before. He was then acting as the US government official concerning with the drug problems in Southeast Asia. After 1979, Richard Armitage resigned from the US Embassy’s posting and set up the “Far East Trading Company” as a front for his continuation in the drug trade and to bribe CIA agents in Laos and around the world. Soon after, Daniel Arnold was made to handle the drug business as well as the transportation of arms sales. Jerry Daniels then took over the drug trade from Richard Armitage. For over 10 years, Armitage supported his men in Laos and Thailand with the profits from his drug trade and most of the cash were deposited with the Banks in Australia which was to be used in buying his way for quicker promotions to higher positions.