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May 26, 2006

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Wow" is the word. Let me be the first to extend kudos for ths wonderfully comprehensive installment. And to think that you cranked this out while dealing with us in the peanut gallery re your first installment. Great work.

PS to Polly and Viget: Please keep up the "forensic talking point analysis" (to use viget's felicitous phrase). I've been struck by the eerie similarities that keep popping up as well (bowels and boongdoggles, dispatches and junkets, cabbages and kings), and I think they are highly instructive even if they might not satisfy the criminal burden of proof.

PPS to EW: As I'm sure you're already aware, Reggie has issued a decision on the media motions to quash. It's rather interesting -- and unbelievably tantalizing. Sorry, I'm link-impaired today, but the WaPoo has a pdf of the decision if you don't already have it.

Amazing reconstruction, EW. I'll be anxiously awaiting Part III and hope you get into all the Novak/Rove contortions.

And yes, somebody (Quicksilver?) has really been on top of the DKosopdedia timeline, it's excellent.

A couple of quick notes:

Novak's version seems to be that he talked to Armitage on July 8. That's implied by Pincus' 8-11-05 WaPo story, for which he seems to have spoken to Novak, and Pincus is explicit in an interview on NPR on 10-23-05:

On July 8th, somebody talks to Robert Novak and mentions Wilson's wife's alleged role in setting up the trip.

To be sure, it's hard to know how to credit information coming from Novak, especially since he might have an interest in obscuring a variety of things on this issue. But his version at this point seems to be that he talked to his first source on July 8.

Here's a question: is it possible that that July 9 gaggle where Fleischer discusses the substance of Wilson's report - perhaps thanks to having seen the INR memo and underlying documents - is what got him in potential trouble, leading to the cooperation agreement it appears he might have? Though I don't think this is the gaggle whose complete transcript was subpoenaed by Fitzgerald, it is interesting that this one seems to be unaccountably missing from the White House website's press briefing archives. The problem with this idea is that a possible crime in disclosing Wilson's classified report would appear to fall outside the scope of Fitzgerald's investigation, so it's not clear how Fitzgerald would have incented Fleischer with that.

This might fall outside what you're interested in here, but it might be worth noting that on July 10 Novak has his conversation(s) with Harlow at CIA, as well as with Wilson himself. It's unclear - and it would be nice to be clear on - what the order was here.

I also think you're underplaying the extent to which Tenet, as he fell on his sword, also threw daggers both at Wilson and the White House.

As for this:

I suspect that there is some kind of Rove-Libby-Hadley correspondance from early in the week, discussing classified issues--things like the contents of the CIA report on Joe Wilson's trip and the NIE that they were leaking--that they tried retroactively to explain away as early drafts of Tenet's speech.

Did you notice there appears to be some confirmation of this in Waas' article yesterday?

Rove has testified that he did not learn that Plame was a CIA operative from classified information, that he was not part of a campaign with Libby or other White House officials to discredit Wilson or out Plame, and that any information that he provided Novak and Cooper about Plame's CIA job was only unsubstantiated gossip.

Finally, I'd also recently noticed how good the dkosopedia timeline is these days. My prime suspect is polly.

Jeff,

I'll come back to some of this later. But Ari's leaks almost certainly don't come from the INR memo (and I still consider that suspect, since we've got competing claims about whether Ari ever saw it). They come from the CIA report.

The briefing that got subpoenaed is the July 12 one, where Ari so egregiously misrepresents what the trip report says. I sort of wonder whether that made it into the talking points (Libby on July 8 and Ari on July 12), and if so, whether that's why it was yanked, because it shows a clear intent to smear Wilson uaing classified information.

Also, are you sure that that woudl be outside the purview of Fitz' investigation?

Per usual, this is a fantastic post, emptywheel.

Been collecting links to Plame-related timelines for personal use here--the only two that I've visited recently enough to have the links appear as "visited" are the dKosopedia and eRiposte's "CIA on uranium from Africa." As many have pointed out, the dKosopedia timeline has been superlative of late.

If anybody knows of other timelines I'm missing (or updated versions of the ones I have), I am an avid collector.

[Incorporating my continuing objection to assuming that Armitage is involved by reference]

The curious detail - why weren't those documents declassified?

The Bush administration publicly declassifies only documents that make them look good. Since they didn't actually declassify the trip report, we can safely assume that they lied about what's in it (and the SSCI was probably complicit). It's important to remember that while Libby claims he was authorized to leak the NIE, what he actually did (besides out Plame) was to lie about the NIE. He told Miller that the classified portions made the case for war stronger, when it's now obvious that the classified portions were much weaker (more caveats, etc.). We can be pretty sure that trip report is not what it's been represented to be at all and it would be very obvious if they released it.

William

I'm particularly intrigued by Libby's assertion that there were two reports.

There were two reports, if you count the al Zahawie report (which was about establishing commercial relations). But that's pretty clearly not related to Wilson. But somehow those two got conflated in a really egregious way.

emptywheel

Very quickly, I've been trying to figure out what Fleischer would have to make a cooperation agreement for, if he has. (It's not even clear if he has, but he has been subject to sealed filings from both sides, and there is that discussion in the 5-5-06 hearing that seems to allude to someone probably with a cooperation agreement, subject to Jeffress' sealed affidavit. But I'm not even sure of much of that, as Fitzgerald clearly misdirects us and perhaps Team Libby when he is talking in court about sealed and other sensitive matters.) And that excerpt from the July 9 gaggle suggests he was not leaking but publicly announcing classified information from Wilson's trip report. So I wonder whether that could have gotten him in potential trouble, however he learned about it, as long as it was clear the information was classified. I will note, though, that the point about Wilson's report not talking at all about forged documents was emphatically made in the INR memo. The one other thing in this connection is that I think the bit about Nigerien denials was what prompted Wilson to tell Time that Fleischer was confusing his own report with that from Barbro-whatever, the U.S. Ambassador to Niger, as recounted in Wilson's book. (But Fleischer may have been talking about former officials' denials, not current ones.)

I'm not sure whether it would fall outside the purview of Fitzgerald's investigation, though it seems like it would, since one way or the other the investigation seems tied to the release of information specifically connected to Plame. And there's nothing in the gaggle about her, obviously. The other leading candidate for what could have made Fleischer enter a cooperation agreement was being Pincus' source, though even that doesn't seem so likely to me.

Wouldn't it be interesting if Fleischer's cooperation agreement was tied to his involvement in a conspiracy?

Are we sure though? We know CIA reported a leak of classified information. It was reported as an investigation into an IIPA violation. Fitzgerald introduces it as an investigation into leaks. But does that exclude the leak of the CIA report and, for that matter, Armitage's leaking of Niger forgery sources and methods?

"I suspect Novak also calls Richard Armitage on July 7 and asks him about the backstory to Joe Wilson's trip. Armitage appears to have told Novak something like:"

Go to the timeline of the Plame leak

http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start=9&q=http://www.dkosopedia.com/index.php/Plame_Leak_timeline&e=9797

There is no mention of Novak having made contact with Armitage at this time.

No, there's not. Nor is there a mention of when Mr. X spoke to Novak. Assuming Novak is marginally honest and he has two and exactly two sources, and assuming our little redaction analysis was correct, and Armitage's friends who all but admitted to the press that Armitage was involved, then the conversation probably happened on July 7 or 8. Or maybe Armitage spoke to Novak second, after July 9, and Novak is lying more than we know him to be lying. But there is a lot of evidence to suggest Armitage did speak with Novak and a lot to suggest he spoke to Novak on July 7, 8, ot 9.

I have not come across any of this evidence for this time period. Maybe there is a disinformation campaign underway. It is curious how information seeps into the popular narratives.

I have another question. Prior to July 9, when we know Novak talked to Rove, why would Novak have contacted Armitage concerning something about which he, Novak, could have known nothing at that time? Armitage purportedly immediately recognized his blunder after he had given the original info to Woodward in early June. Novak was coming out of the White House when he was confronted by Wilson's friend on July 8. Maybe this was when and where he originally got the info.

The point is, Armitage is likely the source for what Novak said to Wilson's friend! When we say Armitage is probably Mr. X, that's what we're talking about. And it's hardly disinformation if friends of his are spreading the same expectations.

It can't be Armitage because he already acknowledged his error in the leak to Woodward. Novak most likely got the info on that July 8, and it wasn't from Armitage, but it was from the White House.

To bolster my argument: everything about Armitage is pure speculation. What we do know is that on July 8, Novak comes out of the White House, is confronted by Wilson's friend, and with what seems like consuming vitriol, exclaims that Wilson is an asshole, that his wife sent him and that she worked at the CIA. So he learned all three things that very day at the White House, which means that whomever it was that he met with was really catapaulting the propaganda.

Are we sure though?

No, I am not at all sure.

What we do know is that on July 8, Novak comes out of the White House

Do we know that? How do we know that Novak was coming from the White House?

It is in Wilson's excerpt from his upcoming book:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start=1&q=http://www.politicsoftruth.com/excerpt.html&e=9797

tnh

Most of the stuff about Armitage is speculation. But very well sourced speculation, almost to the point of certainty. There are numerous references in court filings and several in court hearings that rule out just about everyone else to be Novak's other source. That is--it has to be someone with an 8-letter name who doesn't work in the White House. And there is a lot of evidence to suggest Woodward's source is Novak's second source. Add in Armitage's friends recently going on the record about Armitage's mistake, and I don't see much chance it isn't Armitage (why would his friends do that otherwise?)

Also, Politics of Truth has been out 2 years. The passage you cite says the friend was walking toward Wilson's office near the White House, but that Novak was probably on his way to GWU to tape his show. NOthing about coming OUT of the White House.

It is certainly possible Novak spoke to Rove twice or something like that, once in person. But Armitage is in the mix there, very probably.

Great job Emptywheel.

As a coda to this timeline the White House announced on July 14, 2003 that Silvio Berlusconi would visiting the Crawford Ranch on July 20-21. Hadley and Bartlett gave a briefing on July 22, 2003 explaining the process/problems with the Cincinatti speech, the SOTU, and Powell's speech. There is lots of granular detail in the Hadley/Bartlett presser that corresponds to the great summary that Emptywheel presents above. I'd like to see this timeline reconstructed from the point of view of hiding knowledge about the forged Niger documents rather than leaking Valerie Plame's name. Only in hindsight was the White House in crisis mode over the Plame leak. Contemporary to the leak the White House was in crisis over the Niger claims/forgeries.

It wasn't until December 30, 2003 - when Ashcroft recused himself - that the White House was in crisis over the leak. Up until that point the White House was all about obscuring detailed knowledge (who, what, why, etc.) of the Niger forgeries. The forgery story got muted play prior to the Iraq War. It was only 10 days from the time the IAEA revealed the Niger documents as fakes until Bush ordered out the UN inspectors on 3/17. The war itself drowns out the extensive March reporting of the forgeries by Pincus and April is more battlefield success in the larger media narrative. Did the Bush administration think that the forgery story had been contained at this point?

In quick succession you have Kristoff's 5/6 "Missing in Action: Truth" and the fuse is lit connecting the Niger forgeries to the Administration's use of intelligence. Greg Theilman is in the news, Pincus is on the story, Condi Rice has a disastrous 6/8 MTP appearance filled with easily debunked spin, Kristoff slams Rice in a 6/13 column and then throughout June it's a new story on manipulated intelligence every day from multiple outlets. You can spin as disagreement every WMD intelligence detail save one - the forgeries. Remember that fact and then look at the White House interactions with the UK and Italy the week of the Plame leak.

Transcript - Hadley/Bartlett press conference 7/22/03
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/07/20030722-12.html

Here's a quote from the May 5 hearing that deserves a bit of attention.

There will be controversies. But when Mr. Libby says, for example, he didn't approve forgeries, we won't disagree. (6)

I think Fitz probably means Libby didn't approve the insertion of intelligence that he knew to be based on forgeries into the SOTU. But it's an interesting formulation. I didn't know anyone accused Libby of "approving" forgeries. Bolton maybe. Ledeen, sure. But Libby?

I still say it can't be Armitage. He was immediately repentent after the Woodward leak and he had no animus toward Wilson, even trying to dissuade Woodward from writing about Plame. Why would Woodward refrain and Novak publish? Why Novak's animus toward Wilson? It suggests someone other than Armitage was catapaulting the propaganda. I have not seen any of the references you refer to. Do you have cites?

emptywheel - I think that line from Fitzgerald is slightly garbled shorthand for, "But when Mr. Libby says, for example, "He [Wilson] didn't prove they were forgeries," we won't disagree.

And this is going afield, but I am convinced Ledeen had nothing to do with the forgeries. I know this is eriposte's pet theory, but I just don't think it's there.

Another point. The conversation betwen Novak and Armitage, occurs July 7. If Armitage had experienced contrition for his leak, why one month later is he still peddling the same talking points that he already recognized were damaging? And why did Fitzgerald then immediatlely lose interest in Armitage?

Jeff

Actually, I think it's my pet theory. eRiposte doesn't usually voice irresponsible theories like that. I still think there's a distinct possibility the Neocons were involved for four reasons:

  • The coincidence of Ledeen/Franklin meetings with Ghorbanifer in Italy and the forgery timing
  • Some of Ledeen's non-disavowal disavowals, which, if they're consistent with his disavowal of other things he is known to be involved in, are effectively admissions
  • The apparent role of John Bolton in stovepiping the actual forgeries when they came into his department at State
  • The extensive efforts Bolton has made to hide his apparent role in stovepiping, including, recently, what appear to be perjurious statements

But I admit the case is thin, based on smoke rather than fire.

tnhblog

You can read through my last several posts on Armitage as well as my Armitage as Mr. X post, which seems to correlate very well with everything we've discovered since.

I'm not arguing that Armitage is the one who planted the "asshole" comment. Novak generates animus all by himself, he doesn't need Armitage's help there. (And remember, Novak was on MTP on July 6.) Again, I could be wrong about Novak having spoken with Rove by the 8th--the timing of Rove's conversation is still in question. But Novak has consistently said the person who is almost certainly Armitage was his first source. Novak could be lying. But given what we know about timing, this suggests it's quite possible that Armitage was the only source he had spoken with before the July 8 conversation, and therefore the info on Plame (Novak doesn't call her an operative at that point, which would make it likely that Armitage repeated the comment he said to Woodward, that Plame was an analyst) came from Armitage.

On the question of whether Rove and Libby participated in the drafting of Tenet's statement, I propose a simple reconciliation of the stories, adding just one word to the Rove-friendly leak:

Back at the White House, Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby had been at work all week, along with Ms. Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, helping to craft a statement that was *ultimately* issued on Friday by George Tenet, the C.I.A. director.

It was probably far from obvious early in the week just who would fall on their sword by the end of the week.

Your arguments there are not convincing EW. Specifically you mention that Novak might have been spurred to ask Armitage by Rove. But that conversation with Rove occured on July 9 by which time Armitage would no longer be peddling these talking points. At any rate, Fitzgerald having lost interest in Armitage, pretty much exonerates him as the source.

Furthermore EW, you mistakenly attribute the July 9 converstion to Libby rather than Rove. In addition, if Rove is contending that he never brought up Plame in his conversation with Novak on July 9, then how could your imaginary conversation between Rove and Novak be at all plausible?

Well EW, I can only say that right now we are all at a loss. This is such a vast conspiracy of lies that they all shoud be indicted and punished to the full extent of the law. Rove and Novak in particular should be sent to jail and the key thrown away. Their lies are so malicious, so viscious and so contemptible that ordinary people find it hard to grasp.

From Judy on Libby at the St Regis:

I thought I remembered him at one point reading from a piece of paper he pulled from his pocket.

Was that a CIA briefing memo in his pocket or was he just happy to see her?

Ok, we will serious-up now.

From July 8:

One report dated from February 2002. The other indicated that Iraq was seeking a broad trade relationship with Niger in 1999, a relationship that he said Niger officials had interpreted as an effort by Iraq to obtain uranium.

Well, the fisrt report could be the DIA piece that caught Cheney's eye in Feb.

"The other", that alluded to a 1999 trade delegation, could be Wilson's from March 2002. Something is muddled here, though, since we are told that the Wilson report triggered yet more questions:

Mr. Libby also told me that on the basis of these two reports and other intelligence, his office had asked the C.I.A. for more analysis and investigation of Iraq's dealings with Niger. According to my interview notes, Mr. Libby told me that the resulting cable - based on Mr. Wilson's fact-finding mission, as it turned out - barely made it out of the bowels of the C.I.A.

Well, her timeline could be confused - maybe Libby was saying OVP got the DIA report, asked questions, got the Wilson report mentioning the 1999 trade delegation, and moved on.

I suspect Fitzgerald is using the nepotism claim as a marker for leaks that trace back to Dick's notes on Wilson's op-ed. Is Judy telling the truth, or is she protecting Dick?)

Did she lie to her notebook? She claims (And presumably Fitzgerald confirms) that her notes don't mention nepotism or a link between the wife and the Niger trip.

I would think a nepotism allegation would merit a mention, but I'm not a world class. Pulitzer Prize winning reporter.

Italiacto!

On the dispute over Tenet's statement, there's actually some evidence from one of Fitzgerald's responses to Libby, and not surprisingly it doesn't look too good for Tenet's version of events. In the famous (to who? to us!) 4-5-06 response to Libby's third motion to compel discovery, Fitzgerald indicates on p. 17) that he has produced, therefore there exist, drafts of the July 11 state issued by Tenet from OVP. Fitzgerald also seems to suggest that he has additional drafts from other agencies, which would almost certainly include the NSC, and Libby's own motion indicates that Hadley was the point man, as he had "numerous conversations during the critical early July period with Mr. Tenet about the sixteen words and Mr. tenet's public statement about that issue." (p. 26 of Libby's 3-17-06 motion) So it's very possible Libby and Tenet didn't directly interact over the statement; Hadley may have passed drafts from Tenet to Libby and vice versa.

This doesn't settle who first drafted the statement - but it is pretty much at odds with what the Team Tenet people were trying to convey to the Post. And it strikes me that the CIA may have been misleading the Post, leaving out the part about how Hadley passed his and Libby's (and possibly Rove's) handiwork to Tenet on July 9 and said, "You're gonna issue this, sucker," at which point Tenet began drafting his own statement, which included the daggers back at the White House not included in what Hadley handed him. And perhaps Hadley only saw that once, and/or made some minor changes.

At the same time, it remains possible that not all the back-and-forth early in the week among Hadley, Libby and Rove was about the statement. And even if it were, isn't that participating in an effort to discredit Wilson anyway?

Sorry to be an idiot but - I can see that Ari messed up the Wilson story on July 12 by saying that someone approached Wilosn with a trade proposal.

But I can't see that in Judy's July 8 story:

As I told Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury, Mr. Libby alluded to the existence of two intelligence reports about Iraq's uranium procurement efforts. One report dated from February 2002. The other indicated that Iraq was seeking a broad trade relationship with Niger in 1999, a relationship that he said Niger officials had interpreted as an effort by Iraq to obtain uranium.

My notes indicate that Mr. Libby told me the report on the 1999 delegation had been attributed to Joe Wilson.

Mr. Libby also told me that on the basis of these two reports and other intelligence, his office had asked the C.I.A. for more analysis and investigation of Iraq's dealings with Niger. According to my interview notes, Mr. Libby told me that the resulting cable - based on Mr. Wilson's fact-finding mission, as it turned out - barely made it out of the bowels of the C.I.A. [my emphasis]

Can you mark it up for the slow readers?

I can't if Jeff's right and the 2002 report is the DIA one, which is an interesting suggestion (though I read that as intelligence report). Anyway, here's my take, with a fuller quote:

Mr. Libby then proceeded through a lengthy and sharp critique of Mr. Wilson and what Mr. Libby viewed as the C.I.A.'s backpedaling on the intelligence leading to war. According to my notes, he began with a chronology of what he described as credible evidence of Iraq's efforts to procure uranium. As I told Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury, Mr. Libby alluded to the existence of two intelligence reports about Iraq's uranium procurement efforts. One report dated from February 2002. [now, this could be the SISMI report that arrived in February 2002, which would make sense] The other indicated that Iraq was seeking a broad trade relationship with Niger in 1999, a relationship that he said Niger officials had interpreted as an effort by Iraq to obtain uranium.

My notes indicate that Mr. Libby told me the report on the 1999 delegation had been attributed to Joe Wilson.[given the rest of the context here, this suggests this is a report gathered before Wilson's trip from 1999--it could be the al Zahawie trip, which was connected to Dick pursuing more information, but Wilson has nothing to do with that. Or it could be the Mayaki report from within Wilson's Niger report, which would be a misrepresentation anyway, because Wilson didn't write this one.]

Mr. Libby also told me that on the basis of these two reports and other intelligence, his office had asked the C.I.A. for more analysis and investigation of Iraq's dealings with Niger. According to my interview notes, Mr. Libby told me that the resulting cable - based on Mr. Wilson's fact-finding mission, [this suggests a second piece of intelligence tied to Wilson, the one we know to be the CIA trip report]as it turned out - barely made it out of the bowels of the C.I.A. He asserted that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, had never even heard of Mr. Wilson.

Now, I'd have to review eRiposte's work on the al Zahawie intelligence, but it appears here they're conflating that with the Mayaki comment. I don't know if the implications of that conflation would suggest Wilson was a go-between, as Ari did. But Libby is either claiming Wilson did things he didn't (perhaps the al Zahawie trip was close to the same time as Wilson's 1999 trip?) or he's suggesting something Wilson reported in his report was one of the pieces of intelligence that sparked Dick to ask for more information which led to the trip where he reported that infomration??

I'll also repeat--the inaccurate date Novak uses would place the Mayaki event during the period when Wilson was in Baghdad.

The muddles are not exactly the same. But both suggest a Wilson involvement in 1999, perhaps based on his CIA trip then.

thnblog,

Thanks for doing the "it's not Armitage" work for me. For what it's worth, I don't think Armitage leaked to Novak. I wish I knew why he's willing to let people believe it's him. My pet theory (with absolutely no facts to back it up) is that Fitzgerald is glad everybody thinks it's Armitage and has communicated to Armitage not to deny it. If my wild speculation (and let's all remember it would be irresponsible not to speculate) that Mr. X is actually Alberto Gonzales is correct, it is definitely in Fitzgerald's interest for everybody to think Mr. X is somebody else.

I also think that Novak clearly has more than two sources for his July 14th, 2003 column. Only a small bit of it was actually sourced to the two SAO's.

William

Yes, Novak may well have more than the 4 sources I identified in my post on this. But two things are relatively certain. The White House (so Rove and possibly others) was pushing the CIA report on Wilson's trip (because Novak attributes that to the White House). And there is a clear discursive continuity between one of the other points made by someone who spoke with Novak--that the Niger intelligence was always based on the forged documents. While I think it quite possible that more people from, say, the White House chipped in, it seems clear Novak pretty much synthesized three sets of talking points--the WH Joe Wilson report one, the Niger as forgery one, and the more moderate "CPD sent Wilson" which is clearly attributed to CIA. So if your Gonzales theory were correct, then it would mean there was still a source that gave Novak the niger forgery stuff, because I'd bet you good money Abu G would never do that.

Following the link to the NYT article that included the bit in the White House-Tenet dispute over who wrote his July 11 statement, I was led to reread Kristof's original 5-6-03 column. If you haven't read it in a while, I highly recommend it, in light of what we've learned recently, and especially because it strongly supports my claim that Team Powell had reason to feel hostile toward Wilson, and that that might help explain Armitage's leaks. In fact, not only is the top of the State Department much more a focus than OVP, Powell and State are criticized as much if not more than President Bush for ignoring the doubts about the Niger intelligence in the runup to the war. OVP plays a rather minor role here, especially as compared with the role it would play subsequently.

Here's how Kristof introduces the Niger business as a prime example of manipulated intel:

Consider the now-disproved claims by President Bush and Colin Powell that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger so it could build nuclear weapons.

So it's not just the SOTU; it's equally Powell who was making the discredited claim. (Presumably Kristof is alluding to Powell's Januar 26 2003 speech at Davos, relayed in the Hersh report Kristof mentions?)

It's true that OVP is put at the origin of Wilson's trip. But it is rather fact-of-the-matter, not particularly loaded:

I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger.

That is the only mention of OVP in the whol column. And it is what Wilson in fact believed; no great significance is attached to it here, and OVP is a minor player. The next sentence talks about who Wilson reported back to:

In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged.

So both CIA and State received Wilson's report, according to this. One of the main points of the INR memo was to dispute that INR had debriefed Wilson on his return. Another was to dispute that Wilson's report - which he ties to State - debunked the forgeries, which Kristof's article goes on to assert the report had, again specifically citing State for having continued to make the uranium claim in the face of that debunking:

The envoy's debunking of the forgery was passed around the administration and seemed to be accepted -- except that President Bush and the State Department kept citing it anyway.

And then Kristof drives home the point by finishing the column's brief section on the Niger story with a quotation from an insider who, if it's not WIlson, was almost certainly believed to be Wilson:

"It's disingenuous for the State Department people to say they were bamboozled because they knew about this for a year," one insider said.

That may be an allusion by Wilson to the sort of claim he had heard on CNN from, I believe, a State Department spokesman back in March, which led him to speak on the topic on TV. Whatever the case, this is a rather serious accusation lodged against State, and there can be no question that the Kristof column points the finger of blame on the Niger matter principally at State, with the Secretary of State singled out for criticism, even more than President Bush.

I think this not only makes it plausible that Team Powell was pissed at Wilson, giving Armitage a motive to belittle his trip - all the more so because State could make a plausible claim that Wilson distorted the story: that Powell had specifically refused to make the Africa uranium claim at the UN immediately after the President had done so in the SOTU; that INR had been the most skeptical of the Niger claim, to the point that they didn't even see the need for Wilson's trip to investigate what they had already debunked (the Niger story); and that, as the INR memo argues, it was INR, not Wilson, that specifically tagged the documents as forgeries before the SOTU. I think this rereading of the initial Kristof column also offers a different picture of the early parts of the Wilson-Plame story than is conventional wisdom. Specfically, 1)Though I'm sure OVP took note, with some concern, of Kristof's column, it's easy to see how Cheney's people wouldn't go crazy over it. My suspicion is that what really kicked things into gear was Pincus, and perhaps other reporters, asking questions in late May. It's possible that WIlson himself was more focused on the White House, and OVP in particular, than Kristof made it out to be. Or it's possible he heard back from State after the Krisotf article. In any case, there's no question that the negative focus started to shift from State to the White House. 2)I suspect the INR memo was generated at least in part as a response to the Kristof column, and/or reporters questions following up on that prominent dimension of Kristof's column. One of the things that makes me think it might be the latter is the INR memo's stated intention of responding to allegations that INR played a role in his trip and the dissemination of his reporting; no such allegations are mentioned in Kristof's article. One possibility is that these were intra-governmental, even intra-IC allegations. But it's also possible that they heard these allegations coming from reporters who had already talked to Wilson.

On a related side note, it looks to me like the INR memo reads partly as INR specifically defending itself within the State Department ("Hey, if Wilson reported to State, it wasn't us!"), and partly a defense of State more generally within the IC and government ("We were on to how flawed the intel was, and any mention of the uranium claim was a slip. Don't blame us for SOTU either. We didn't need no stinking Wilson trip to know the Niger story was bs.")

Here's an interesting tidbit. It turns out that Novak did not appear on CNN's Crossfire edition on July 8:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start=14&q=http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0307/08/cf.00.html&e=9797

Wonder what he was doing in the neighborhood of the White House at that time?

Jeff

I absolutely agree with what you say about the INR memo. But it was not just Kristof's column they were responding to. There was a WaPo article in the first days after the war started that had CIA and other unnamed sources blaming State. Though I don't think you can read the INR memo as a successful attempt to defend itself within State. If it were, it would include all of the Iraq analyst's materials and it would include more details on Bolton's role. In other words, while it may lay out half of INR's case for having been on top of things, it doesn't put the blame where it lay as strongly as it should (that is, State DID deserve some blame for the Niger assertions, not least because Bolton's December 19 fact sheet was the first public statement of Niger's alleged role, but the memo doesn't make the case strongly).

We do know, though, that Fitz had reason to believe OVP paid attention, since he subpoenaed Libby's notes from the time of Kristof's column.

I still have my one big question about your State pissed at Wilson scenario. Wilson was discussing with Scowcroft, at least, his actions as he was making them (at the least, in response to Condi's speech). He had been working with allies of State going all the way back to the previous Fall. So how are they simultaneously opposed to him? Also, Grossman apparently wrote two emails to Wilson that seem to suggest he was on Wilson's side, at least according to Libby's lawyers. I don't doubt, at all, that State was busy trying to prove it wasn't responsible for the war. But I also think State's interests partially coincided with Wilson's.

Though, Jeff, if Armitage is SAO, then it would support your point. From the September 28 WaPo article:

the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."

emptywheel

But it was not just Kristof's column they were responding to. There was a WaPo article in the first days after the war started that had CIA and other unnamed sources blaming State.

Oh, but I'm sure there were other memos too on other related, but distinct topics. What we call the INR memo was just the Niger-Wilson corner of the much larger fight over the gigantic cascade of screwups we call the war. As for how successful INR was in defending itself within State, it's not shocking to me that they limited themselves to clearing their name in the Wilson thing, and just noting State's December inclusion of the Niger allegation, rather than going for, say, the emptywheel approach to Bolton. Not that it's not deserved and appropriate. But I'm going to assume that you don't go after those within your department with the same vigor as those outside; and there was the strong imperative to defend State altogether against CIA, the White House and critical press.

I do agree that OVP probably reacted with some alarm to Kristof's column; undoubtedly Cheney took the penknife to it. But it was nothing compared to later. Partly I'm trying to account for the fact that Kristof's column comes out end of the first week of May, but it's not until the very end of May that Libby seems to really kick into gear in getting as much on Wilson and his trip as he can. My current suspicion is that one way or the other, directly or indirectly, OVP got word of Pincus (and perhaps others) reporting on the story, and both wanted to figure out how to respond, and increasingly got the sense that Wilson was going to push it.

As for relations between and the coinciding interests and viewpoints of State and Wilson, a few responses. First, it's perfectly possible that Kristof's article is more focused on and critical of State than Wilson himself was at the time. Someone like Armitage - and others in INR, say - wouldn't know that, and could be pissed at Wilson, even if Wilson was not entirely responsible. Second, relatedly, I'd differentiate State from Team Powell, from the political leadership of the Department grouped around Powell, and very loyal to him. Grossman is obviously a complicated case, since he would be loyal to his department and its head, but also loyal to his old friend. But in general I think it's possible to imagine conflicting attitudes toward Wilson both among State people and even within a given individual. And again, I can only imagine that Powell and Armitage would have read the Kristof column as a direct and serious attack on Powell, with Wilson as the vehicle, regardless of what they may have known about his affiliations with Scowcroft, for instance.

As for Armitage as 1x2x6, I'm not sure that would support my point much in this regard, since if it was Armitage, he was basically misleading, and certainly talking about the leaks from the White House, not his own. I mean, maybe he felt like he knew what he was talking about. But still it's hard to use an act of basic misdirection and misleading as evidence for his attitude toward his own actions.

Tom - I'm not sure that Libby was making the same inaccurate point about Wilson as Fleischer, but there is something deeply screwy going on in what Miller reports Libby said - whether it was confusion on Libby's part, a deliberate lie, or poor note-taking and comprehension by Miller. The screwiness is the muddle you mentioned: the report we have from Miller makes it sound like Libby was saying that Wilson's own trip produced the question from OVP which produced Wilson's trip.

There is almost no question that part of Libby's point was to essentially call Wilson a liar by drawing attention to the fact that his own report - which one is a question - supported the uranium contention. But I've often thought, along the lines of emptywheel's suggestion, that Libby was either confusing or deliberately conflating the most useful part of Wilson's 2002 report (the bit about the former Nigerien looking up at the sky and saying to himself that perhaps, perhaps the Iraqis were interested in uranium) with Wilson's 1999 trip to Niger. Now, however, another possible explanation just suddenly occurred to me: maybe Libby was trying to both convey the way Wilson's report undermined his public claims and make it sound like Wilson's own trip was in no way prompted by Cheney. On the contrary, Libby is suggesting, it was Wilson's own intel report from his trip on the possibility of Niger-Iraq uranium business that helped prompt Cheney's question. And the resulting cable was simply CIA's analysis of the matter. This obscures the fact that Cheney asked the question first, and it at least helped prompt the whole idea of Wilson's trip. (Consider, as a sidenote, that this tactic on OVP's part would match up with Cheney's rhetorical question on Wilson's Op Ed to the effect of, "Send an Amb to answer a question?")

Two more notes. It is possible that there is some genuine confusion on Libby's part, insofar as, according to some recent Fitzgerald filing, pretty late in the game (after July 8, I believe) Libby still thought that Wilson had authored the report. So maybe he didn't understand that the cable just was the report (if it was). On the other hand, the very odd thing about what Miller reports Libby saying is that it indicates that OVP did see and even see significance in the report from Wilson's trip in 2002, and we know that is way of the talking points reservation. So maybe it's just as emptywheel is suggesting, and Miller didn't get that Libby was talking about two different reports on 1999 from Wilson, one that had been around for a while, and that Libby was now trying to tar Wilson as a kind of hypocrite with; and one that included the trade delegation stuff from 2002.

Jeff: "Grossman is obviously a complicated case, since he would be loyal to ... his old friend"

do we have any evidence that this is true? AFAIK, we only know that they happened to go to SDSU together, and had some overlap in Turkey.

While I'm virtually alone in this suspicion, I suspect this email may have been altered after the fact, because it reflects information and a mindset more evident in September 2003 than in July 2003.

you're not the only one.

Hadley at that point was Deputy head of the NSC. He doesn't have a lot to do with "welfare reform", now does he?

So why would Rove write an email to Hadley with the subject "Welfare Reform" on it --- especially when it had almost nothing to do with Welfare Reform?

Jeff

and there was the strong imperative to defend State altogether against CIA, the White House and critical press.

Maybe in normal bureaucratic situations. But not this one. Bolton and INR had been at each other's throats for over a year already and it was clear to everyone Bolton was not a "member" of State. Remember, Bolton was basically trying to totally emasculate INR. So if it were Ford writing this (or the Iraq nuclear analyst), they would have creamed Bolton. But that didn't happen. Which is why I think it curious that Fingar, and not Ford, signed off on the memo.

Someone like Armitage - and others in INR, say - wouldn't know that, and could be pissed at Wilson,

Same problem with that as I always have. You're assuming they didn't talk to Wilson, when there is at least a strong suggestion they did. INR might not know. Armitage is more likely to have.

Grossman is obviously a complicated case

lukery's right--we don't know whether Grossman and Wilson were friends (though it's UCSB, not SDSU). Also, Grossman left with Powell and Armitage, though Condi appears to have tried to get him to stay (though he didn't say "Fuck no" to Condi's request as Armitage seems to have).

Anyway, I don't think this much matters--I'm more interested in the fact that 1) Armitage seems to have been stressing the Niger forgeries (which doesn't contradict your theory at all), and 2) whatever Armitage said to Novak, Fitzgerald (and Novak, which is interesting since he's not the same kind of buddy with Armitage) seems to think he didn't break the law. So he may have said "Plame is an analyst" out of spite or he may have said "Plame is an analyst" because he's a blabbermouth. But it doesn't appear he said, "Plame is an operative" knowing that would out an agent.

One more comment about timing. A DIA report resuscistated Wilson's trip report as a supporting source for the Niger allegations on March 8. I don't know what that means, if anything, but eRiposte suggests it may have been Cheney cabal response to Wilson.

p luk

I think there are a lot of people who think the Hadley email is bogus. BUt I think most people think it was contemporaneous bogosity. Whereas I think it was retrospective (September) bogosity.

I wonder what Manuel Miranda was doing in summer 2003. He left the senate judiciary committee early in 2003 because of the 5,000 snooped emails scandal once the chairman approved of the investigation. MM next worked for the majority leader in 2004 and then in June 2004 was named to lead the "Ethics in Nominations Project".
According to The Hill, the skirmishes over nominations of judges were more of an even match after MM left judiciary.
MM had some notoriety at that time in summer 2003 and certainly had computer skills plus the kind of politics to support an email escapade.

emptywheel

Two things. I guess I just don't see the evidence that there was any sense, on either side, that Wilson and Powell-Armitage were on the same side, certainly by mid-2003. The best evidence from Wilson's side is that way he talks about Powell in his book. He is quite disappointed in Powell's conduct (which is different from being dismissive, as he is with the neocons), but harshly so. I also don't see much evidence for communication, direct or indirect, between Wilson and Team Powell. Yes, Wilson was connected at State, and particularly relevant was not only Grossman but Kansteiner, who I suspect is who Wilson talked to on his return, and also right after the SOTU. And yes, there's Scowcroft. But I don't see much evidence of any of that making its way to Powell-Armitage, and certainly nothing back. I'd add that Powell and Armitage were not particularly State-centric guys to begin with. And Scowcroft's main person in the administration was Rice, as best as I can tell. So overall, I just don't see what the evidence is for either meaningful communication between Team Powell and Wilson; or mutual sympathy or what have you.

Second, I'm perfectly willing to believe that Armitage did not seek to out Plame as an agent. But he screwed up badly, he blew her cover - and I suspect he was more than just gossiping - and to all appearances he lied or at least deliberately omitted what he must have know was relevant information (the Woodward leak). But I'm perfectly willing to believe that about Rove as well. Even Libby, I suspect, did not explicitly out her as an agent. My sense is he knew it as a no-no to trade in information about her CIA employment, and he did it anyway, hoping that Miller would publish in order to discredit and get the Wilsons.

In all of this, I'm sure there's a lot we don't know. And obviously I will see things differently if it were to turn out, for example, that Armitage had a subsequent conversation with Novak (still pre-July 14) where he basically tried to get Novak not to publish about Plame. And I don't have any reason to think Armitage's conduct was like Libby's. But it still looks pretty bad to me.

Finally, Novak's own opinion that Armitage didn't commit a crime means nothing. Not only was Armitage in fact a regular source for Novak, indicating some sustained relationship (and remember Novak was not exactly fully on board with the neocon position on the war), but of course Novak is going to declare that the person who helped him commit a despicable act was not committing a crime, in his own opinion. To say nothing of the sheerly self-interested side of it: if Novak remains even potentially legally exposed, as I would not be surprised to learn he is on obstruction-type charges, of course he's going to argue that the underlying activity was no biggie.

Jeff

I may well be wrong in interpreting the suggestions that Wilson talked to some people who had ties to State (which is the basis of my State argument). But I'll repeat what I said before. It doesn't matter for this scenario. The only conclusion I didn't make in this scenario for which there is evidence is the possibility that Armitage called Wilson an asshole. We don't have any evidence for anything stronger.

Otherwise, we seem to be approaching Armitage from two logically different approaches. I'm saying, "Fitzgerald apparently didn't believe, before Woodward's leak, that Armitage broke the law. And he still seems to refer to him as innocent accused." From that evidence, I'm trying to understand how it's possible that Armitage isn't in more trouble. It seems illogical on the face, so I'm trying to understand how it might not be.

You're saying, "Armitage clearly leaked to two people therefore there must be some animus to Wilson and some obstruction on Armitage's part." And from that you're drawing conclusions such as:

But he screwed up badly, he blew her cover - and I suspect he was more than just gossiping - and to all appearances he lied or at least deliberately omitted what he must have know was relevant information (the Woodward leak)

For which we don't have real evidence. We know he told Woodward she was a WMD analyst--but did that blow her cover? What did he say to Novak? We know he didn't disclose everything about Woodward, but we don't know what he did disclose and what he was asked and why. I agree that your conclusion seems the most logical, but all we have evidence for is that Armitage told at least two people that Plame worked in CIA. We don't know whether he said she was covert and we don't know if he even knew that. It seems logical that he did (given his apparent knowledge of Martino), but we don't know it.

And all I asserted in this column is that State seems to have been pushing a "Bush was wrong to use the intelligence line." That doesn't relate to Wilson, or State's relationship with him, one way or another.

One more point--and I'll get to this in a later post. We also know Armitage was refusing Andrea Mitchell's calls at a time when she was pushing the "Plame is the story" line and possible before Novak's column. I think it's possible that Armitage realized what was happening sometime mid-week (or at least with the Novak column). It's possible that Armitage was getting calls from people who had been encouraged to call him (imagine, for example, if Armitage did speak to Judy and she came asking about Plame). If that happened, it might mean there is contemporaneous evidence that he didn't intend to leak. It might also explain, if he is the 1X2X6 SAO, how he came up with the number 6. That is, if he was called by 6 people (including, say, Tweety and Mitchell, who appeared to have received the Plame leak), and if he knew that Rove and Libby had spoken to them first, then it might explain how he would believe the 1X2X6 information. All that, of course, is total speculation. But I think refusing Mitchell's calls works against the Armitage as evil leaker story more tahn it works in favor (as TM seems to think).

emptywheel

One general point that might help make my position seem more defensible. When I say that Armitage blew Plame's cover, I am not saying he did so deliberately. I am actually following Fitzgerald, who talks of Plame's cover being blown without alleging that anyone necessarily did so deliberately, maliciously, neglectfully and so on. The fact is her cover was blown. The first sign of that was Novak's column, but it was blown thanks to the leaks from government officials to reporters. In the real (as distinct from the legal) world, Armitage was an active and direct player in the leak to Novak - perhaps more so than Libby - and barring the discovery that he realized quite quickly that he had screwed up and went back to Novak to stop him from publishing, in the real world that is a screwup. Not evil, but at least a screwup. Beyond that, the line I've been pushing is that there's reason to think it may have been more than just idle gossip, that Armitage may very well have been running down Wilson. In other words, bad action - which doesn't make it the same or even the same kind of bad action as that pretty clearly taken by Libby, or even Rove. (But I should note I don't think I'm offering as evidence or even assuming that because he leaked to two people there must be some animus.) Again, I don't think what Armitage did is clearly enough to meet IIPA requirements or even Espionage Act - and in this regard your point about Fitzgerald's judgment is well taken. My attitude will change also if any evidence turns up to support your suggestion that Armitage was set up as a stooge by Libby et al. But i have not seen any evidence of that.

So I'm in agreement that Fitzgerald has apparently made the judgment that Armitage did not commit an underlying crime. I am proudly going to hold out, seemingly alone, for the idea that he has not made that judgment with regard to obstruction-type offenses by Armitage. I don't think Fitzgerald knew anything about an Armitage-to-Woodward leak at the time of Libby's indictment. The most I can imagine is that Armitage testified that he vaguely recalled he might have talked to other reporters, but couldn't remember who or when. Even that, though, I think strains credibility. So I see no obvious reason why Armitage wouldn't be in trouble for failing to disclose the Woodward leak.

As for talk of "innocent accused," my take on that is that it's been widely misunderstood to refer to people who are definitively innocent. I think if you look at the 2-24-06 hearing transcript, the discussion, especially the early discussion, is predicated on the fact that the investigation is still open, and therefore a number of people who have been accused may or may not yet be charged, and the public has no basis for distinguishing those two categories of people, which is what justifies protecting their identities in the filings. I also think that the initial discussion about this in the hearing bears on Rove, not Armitage. So in other words, I don't take the reference to Armitage as "innocent accused" to mean he's been definitively exonerated. (I also note that when the discussion does turn to "official one," it is Libby's defense who, for understandable reasons, is most emphatic in insisting that official one has done nothing wrong.)

As for the really interesting fact, which I only just learned, that Armitage was refusing Mitchell's calls as of the afternoon of July 14, 2003 at the latest, a lot depends on when exactly Armitage started refusing her calls. The earlier it was the better for your version.

I would be thrilled to learn that, say, Armitage was running down Wilson - not trying to out Plame - in leaking about Plame to Woodward; Woodward told Libby about Armitage; and Libby seized the opportunity by sending reporters, especially Judy, to Armitage armed with the information that Plame worked for the CIA in the hopes that those reporters would learn from Armitage that, on his understanding, Plame had sent Wilson; that as soon as Armitage figured this out, he tried to stop Novak from publishing, without success; that over the course of pre- and post-Novak July 2003, he was called by six reporters sent by the White House; that he thereby came by the 2x6 information, just a little confused in retrospect about the significance of pre- and post-Novak; and that he explained all of this to Fitzgerald; and there's some innocent explanation for the Woodward omission. But so far I'm not seeing it.

Sorry, I should clarify. Andrea Mitchell was complaining on July 20, the same day she told Wilson WH was saying the story was Plame. So it may be later than July 14, we don't know.

Other than that, I don't disagree with most of what you say--I even think it's possible that Fitz is considering Obstruction for Armitage (though given the standards he seems to be using to decide whether to charge Rove and Judy, who did the same, it seems unlikely he will charge for that). And my contention that Fitz didn't think Armitage had broken the law derives more from his non-indictment in November than anything else. I think where we differ is that you describe it as a binary choice:

Armitage was running down Wilson - not trying to out Plame - in leaking about Plame to Woodward;

or Armitage running Wilson and Plame down

I would add a third option better supported by Woodward's description, Pincus' article (which was the impetus for Woodward's discussion, and Novak's column, that Armitage was very intent to explain State's non-credulity on pre-war Intelligence and Plame's role came up incidentally within that larger context. That is the logical midway point between Pincus' June 12 article and Armitage's leak that Wilson's wife was a WMD analyst. And, if I'm right about the Armitage reconstruction, it seems a logical explanation for the Novak leak, which was primarily about the forgeries. You might even say Armitage used the Wilson op-ed as a segue to get to the forgeries, which is precisely how this line...

Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report.

Of the Novak column makes it sound.

Or let me put it this way. When you break Novak's column up the way I have, it seems to support the case that Rove was primarily interested in leaking the contents of the CIA report on Wilson's trip. But it is a lot easier to go from there to intent to leak Plame's identity, than it is to go from Niger forgeries to intent to leak Plame's identity. Leaking Plame helps Rove's case, and doesn't help Armitage's in the least.

Andrea Mitchell was complaining on July 20, the same day she told Wilson WH was saying the story was Plame. So it may be later than July 14, we don't know.\

Ah, but the July 20 column refers back to the previous Monday afternoon, when Mitchell finds out that Armitage is doing some fluff interview with Fox and throws a fit. That Monday was - dingdingdingdingding - July 14.

I appreciate that you're floating a third, most innocent option. I've got two responses, as I think we're actually getting closer to some common ground. First, even if your most innocent scenario is right, it was incredibly stupid and irresponsible on Armitage's part. She's a CIA employee. He's a high-level government guy. It's his responsibility to affirmatively make sure there's no problem with revealing the CIA affiliation of someone to reporters. Second, the point you make that I find most persuasive is that Armitage's main purpose was not to rebut and discredit Wilson, the way that was both Libby's and Rove's central purpose; so in that sense the disclosure of Plame's CIA affiliation was a different act in the two sets of cases. I completely agree. Our disagreement, then, is whether Armitage was just offering what he took to be the facts of the matter, with no animus, or whether he was offering criticism and negative information about Wilson. I think the latter - which is still different from what Libby and Rove appear to have been doing. In effect, I am saying that Armitage's leak of Plame to Woodward and Novak could well have been offhand, and still be snarky, nasty, negative, meant to harsh on Wilson. I also think the category "intent to leak Plame's identity" is a little too crude. Or put it this way: Armitage most certainly intended to leak Plame's affiliation with the CIA, and I think he did so in to discredit Wilson, even if he was no part of a campaign to discredit Wilson and launder her CIA affiliation to the public.

emptywheel & Jeff,

I'm still not buying the Armitage story. I've rewritten this comment several times as I've watched your discussion proceed. What I see you converging on is a set of motivations that still make no sense to me from Armitage's vantage point. Most of what emptywheel attributes to Armitage (other than the Plame reference) was public knowledge. According to a Jack Shafer column (published online, not coincidentally, on July 14, 2003), Jeff Shallot made the "con man" accusation on March 8, 2003 in the Toronto Globe and Mail.

There is no doubt that Joe Wilson was most upset by the State Department and their March 2003 statement that they had been fooled by the forgeries. It's pretty obvious why he'd be upset if you read the notes from his meeting with them before the trip. The Iraq analyst obviously knew that the Niger documents were forgeries and the whole story was ludicrous. But how does that become a motive for what you both postulate as Armitage's leaks?

Let's review the situation from Armitage's perspective. Let's assume that Novak spoke with Mr. X after July 6th (although we don't know that is the case, it seems likely). If Armitage was Mr. X, he had earlier leaked about Wilson's wife to Woodward, apparently on the basis of a briefing from Marc Grossman. By July 7, he's read the memo himself and forwarded it on to Powell. I'm hard pressed to see how Armitage, an experienced IC insider, would think that it's ok to leak Wilson's wife's affiliation with the CIA to Novak. Moreover, I just don't see his motivation. INR reports directly to Armitage. They were the ones who were right about the whole sordid affair. I can see Armitage saying "We didn't send Wilson to Niger. We already knew the story was crap. You need to go talk to the CIA and the WH about this." But I can’t see him bringing Wilson’s wife into it.

On the other hand, look how Mr. X’s hiding of the Woodward conversation helps the Cabal storyline. We know Libby was desperate to direct attention away from the goings-on in June. If we can believe Woodward (and that’s not a sure thing in my opinion), he tried to get Mr. X to ‘fess up much earlier in the investigation. In Woodward’s narrative, Mr. X is reluctant to tell Fitzgerald about the conversation until he realizes that Woodward has it on tape and threatens to go to Fitzgerald.

In the final analysis, what's the evidence that Armitage is the leaker? There's the redaction evidence, but even I wouldn't put much faith in that. He hasn't denied the accusation, but I wouldn't expect him to do that. He "fits" the putative descriptions that Novak and Woodward have put forth, but how much is that worth? There's just the rumors. Even if some of them come from his own surrogates, I'm not convinced. Could he be the leaker? Yes. Is is it almost certain? Not by a long shot.

Jeff

Ah geez, thanks for doing the math on that date. July 14 indeed. Though that makes is before the July 16 date when I've always imagined Mitchell got an earful from Dick.

Almost in complete agreement. It's only the intent question.

I also think the category "intent to leak Plame's identity" is a little too crude. Or put it this way: Armitage most certainly intended to leak Plame's affiliation with the CIA, and I think he did so in to discredit Wilson, even if he was no part of a campaign to discredit Wilson and launder her CIA affiliation to the public.

If you read the Woodward conversation as a direct response to the Pincus article, it is logical that Woodward wanted to know who, why his identity would add to the credibility, and what was the poor handling of intell that happened. Armitage to Woodward in the context of a Plan of Attack interview, I can see him offering Plame as just one detail of that response. I'm absolutely less sure about the NOvak conversation, though, because there are so many possibilities for tampering there.

William

Evidence for Armitage:

  • Redactions which probably narrow it down to Armitage, Fleischer, Abu G (for you) and Rummy
  • Apparently uncontested assertions in court by Jeffress that Mr. X was not in the White House
  • Jeffress' apparent evolution in filings/court statements, to demanding evidence on Armitage (which got shot down because it was irrelevant) to demanding evidence on Official One who sounds remarkably like Armitage
  • The response of what appear to be Armitage's friends in the NYDN and Clemons' site (plus Clemons' well established relationship with Wilkerson)

Is that almost certain?

Does that make it almost certain? Perhaps not. But one or another piece of evidence rules out other likely candidates: Cheney, Hadley, Gonzales. In the absence of any other credible candidates (besides maybe Ari), and in the presence of this evidence, I think that's a pretty strong case.

Furthermore, here's what you said Armitage would say:

I can see Armitage saying "We didn't send Wilson to Niger. We already knew the story was crap. You need to go talk to the CIA and the WH about this." But I can’t see him bringing Wilson’s wife into it.

How is that different from what I've reconstructed as Armitage's Novak leak? That reconstruction is basically saying, "CIA sent him. We knew the story was crap. And in fact, do you want to know how crappy it was? Well, so crappy that Bush used intelligence based on forged documents in his SOTU."

So my scenario actually fits perfectly into your conception of Armitage's perspective (though I'd quibble on how he learned the info, on both counts). More importantly, who else would have said such a thing to Novak? Not Ari, not Cheney, not Hadley, not Libby, not Abu G.

WO

The depthless perversity of the human heart has always been the weak spot for Ockhamites when they take their penknife to human affairs.

That aside, there are some pretty contorted scenarios where Armitage is not the source - Woodward has been known to lie about his secret sources, so he could be misdirecting, including failing to deny the WaPo's story citing Bradlee saying it was Armitage; Armitage could be protecting someone, or setting someone up for a fall by refusing to deny that he was the source; his utter refusal to talk to the American press (with rare exceptions focused on foreign policy) could be part of the same effort; the obviously, even ludicrously, pro-Armitage story planted in the NY Daily News that had his allies acknowledging that he had in fact talked to (plural) but explaining that he wasn't under threat of indictment could be part of the same effort, or a secret effort at undermining Armitage by others not caught by the reporters; the repeated point from Libby's lawyers suggesting that official one was not in the White House and might have been in the State Department could be bs; and, finally, the seemingly definitive evidence from studying the redactions could have been planted to look that way by Fitzgerald.

It's all possible. But for the moment I'm sticking with Armitage.

Also, I don't see how hiding the June leak to Woodward particularly helps the Cabal storyline. Or rather I don't see how that idea, even if true, tells you anything absent the assumption that it was one of them.

emptywheel

I see how you're saying Plame truly could have been one detail mentioned in passing by Armitage as he recounted Wilson's story. I guess again that's where my sense of sheer, mutual animus between Wilson and Team Powell would suggest at least another plausible possibility. Plus the rivalry and mutual annoyance between CIA and State over who got what right first and so on (where the Wilson trip, regardless of Wilson's State creds, counted as CIA action). This is where it makes a difference whether Armitage saw or heard about the substance of the INR memo, and shared its evident attitude of pique toward Wilson.

Plus the fact that Armitage omitted mention of the Woodward conversation. On that point, I strongly believe there's no way Armitage told Fitzgerald about Woodward until after Libby's indictment. Fitzgerald would not have refrained from going after Woodward, alone among reporter-leakees, especially if Armitage couldn't nail down the date. And it's unlikely Armitage didn't remember, since Woodward reminded him of the conversation twice, it seems, over the course of 2004-5 (though there may be a little ambiguity remaining in terms of what Woodward actually said to Armitage).

Obviously, I don't think there's any way to reason this Armitage business out, absent more evidence, including on who 1x2x6 is, what the basis for the claim was, and what the motivation may have been.

Jeff,

The NYDN story is the one thing that really points to Armitage. It really seems to point to Armitage wanting people to think it was him. I can't begin to explain that.

As far as how hiding the Woodward leak helps the Cabal, that goes back to my theory that the leaks to Woodward and Judy Miller were designed to provide the "I heard it from reporters" cover story.

emptywheel,

I dismiss the Jeffress stuff out of hand. I think it has no probative value in this discussion. I don't know what to make of the Steve Clemons stuff other than it's of a piece with the NYDN article.

More importantly, who else would have said such a thing to Novak? Not Ari, not Cheney, not Hadley, not Libby, not Abu G.

If you remove the first paragraph of your hypothesized July 7th Armitage-Novak conversation (about the Italian report and a "con man") as being previously reported, and the second paragraph ("Wilson's wife suggested him") as common to any Plame leaker, you're left with the third paragraph about the British report and forged evidence -- which is extremely close to what Ari acknowledged in his press briefing officially renouncing the "16 words" on ... (drum roll) ... July 7th.

* Apparently uncontested assertions in court by Jeffress that Mr. X was not in the White House
* Jeffress' apparent evolution in filings/court statements, to demanding evidence on Armitage

If Fitzgerald was obligated to rebut every assertion Jeffress made, whether it applied to the matter at hand or not, Jeffress could pry any information he wanted out of Fitz just by tossing out the right assertions, couldn't he?

I will admit that Fleischer is far and away the only imaginable alternative to Armitage. It's even the closest fit after Armitage for the redactions, I believe. There's the reported phone call from Novak to Fleischer on the 7th, the same day Libby talks all about Plame at the weird lunch with Fleischer. There are the sealed filings concerning him, and the repeated hints of a cooperation agreement. Did he officially deny being Woodward's source? Or are you suggesting that he was Novak's, but not Woodward's?

Or are you suggesting that he was Novak's, but not Woodward's?

Exactly. I can't imagine Ari being Woodward's source.

1x1x2 lives?

Heh, I decided to save that until after the holiday weekend. Especially since I hope to get Steve Clemons' reaction.

By the way, you and EW are aware that Murray Waas described Pincus' source (or, as Waas put it, the source for Pincus and others) as "he," right?

Yeah

I kind of suspect once we learn Pincus' source this'll all get screwy again.

Oh, and one more point. I've always assumed that the journalist who warned Wilson that "they're coming after you" was Pincus, calling just after he got the 7/12 leak. But in Isikoff and Hosenball's refutation of 1X2X6, they say:

One reporter, he said, did call him and say “watch out, they’re coming after you”—but that journalist is uncertain whether any reference was made to Wilson’s wife’s employment at the CIA.

Which suggests they know who the journalist is and didn't receive the leak per se. Wasn't Hosenball in Africa? Could this have been in response to Ari's and Bartlett's prompts, rather than a direct leak?

I do believe the journalist was Pincus, and I think "uncertain" means "I'm not going to scoop myself by telling you."

The Newsweek article was 4 days before the Pincus 10/12 article that mentioned receiving the leak. (And which, as I noted way back then, was clearly written in response to the Newsweek story.)

But how would they know it was Pincus?

The uncertainty is sourced directly to the journalist (rather than "according to Wilson"), so the implication is that Wilson told Newsweek it was Pincus (or whoever).

Swopa

First off, the holiday weekend's over. Second, which Waas article is that in, the April 4, 2005 or more recent? Like emptywheel, I think, every once in a while I think Pincus' source might be Cheney, but then I lose confidence in that idea again. I don't put that much stock in the use of the male pronoun, it could just be journalistic convention, helpful for obscuring the gender of the source one way or the other. Cathie Martin remains at the top of my list, with Fleischer second, and Cheney a wishful third. Here's the thing. It was Pincus who called Wilson to tell him they were coming after him - Wilson identifies him by name in his book. And though the date isn't pinned down, it seems safe to assume it was after Pincus' took the call on July 12. Would Pincus be so sure they were coming after him if Cathie Martin was running Wilson down? Fleischer I would more readily believe, and if it were Cheney, Pincus could have no doubt.

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