Bob Novak, faced with the evidence that his story is BS, has now changed his story ... a fourth time. And even while he changes his story, he suggests Armitage is the unreliable one.
Novak's Changing Story, Part One
Novak wrote this column, clearly, to insist that Armitage told him that Plame worked in Counter-Proliferation, probably because if Armitage didn't say that, then either someone else did, or Novak was high when he used the word "operative." Novak makes this claim twice:
First, Armitage did not, as he now indicates, merely pass on something he had heard and that he "thought" might be so. Rather, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked, and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Amb. Joseph Wilson.
He had told me unequivocally that Mrs. Wilson worked in the CIA's Counter-Proliferation Division and that she had suggested her husband's mission.
But Novak has been utterly inconsistent in his story about what Armitage said. Here's what he said in his original column:
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.
Note, the only attribution he gives to the CPD identification is to the CIA [update--and as pollyusa notes below, they don't clearly say Plame is a CPD employee]. He changed his story the first time when he switched his attribution that Fall, when he blamed Armitage:
During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife.
He didn't make any claims as to how Armitage described Plame when he first started speaking this summer.
Joe Wilson's wife's role in instituting her husband's mission
But then he changed that story when Bret Hume interviewed him, now describing what Armitage said as something which would be either WINPAC or CPD.
His wife worked in the office of nuclear nonproliferation in the CIA, and she suggested he go.
In short, Novak's version of what Armitage said to him has taken 5 different forms since he first published this leak in July 2003.
- CIA labels Plame as Counter-Proliferation (CPD)
- Armitage labels Plame as CPD
- Armitage doesn't say anything about CPD
- Armitage labels Plame as Nuclear Non-Proliferation (not CPD)
- Armitage labels Plame as CPD
Novak's Changing Story, Part Two
Well, if you're not dizzy yet, you may soon be. Novak changed his story with his second major point in this column, where he describes Armitage's leak as deliberate.
Second, Armitage did not slip me this information as idle chitchat, as he now suggests. He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column.
In his first column, Novak didn't describe whether the leak was intentional or not. But in his interview with Phelps and Royce, he made it clear that both SAOs came to him to give him this leak, not just Armitage. And he said that they gave him Plame's name (a claim that is, as they say, "no longer operative.")
"I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."
But by October, when he was thinking primarily of saving Novak's ass, he revised that story totally, now claiming,
First, I did not receive a planned leak.
It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger.
But now he claims Armitage deliberately leaked this detail.
He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column.
Hey Novak!?!?!? I thought you said the interview was a general one, not specifically about the Wilson column. Are you changing your story on that, too?
Well, he seems to be. But as to the more central question of whether Armitage intended to leak this information, Novak seems to have adjusted his story again so it doesn't contradict what Phelps and Royce said:
- No indication of whether the leak was intentional
- The leak was intentional
- It was not a planned leak, it was an offhand comment
- It was something Armitage thought should be in his column
Of course, Novak's story still has changed from the quote he gave Phelps and Royce, where he said both SAOs gave him the leak intentionally.
Novak Makes Me Laugh
So, after revising his central claims about Armitage for a fifth and a fourth time, respectively, Novak tries to claim he is more reliable on these issues than Armitage:
Neither of us took notes, and nobody else was present. But I recalled our conversation that week in writing a column, while Armitage reconstructed it months later for federal prosecutors.
Damn, I had managed to avoid getting dizzy with Novak's changing story. But now I'm laughing so hard I'm faint!!!