Sept. 8, 2006 -- Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said yesterday that he believes he was the initial source for a 2003 newspaper column by Robert D. Novak that disclosed the CIA's previously secret employment of Valerie Plame, the wife of a prominent critic of the U.S. war in Iraq.
Armitage said that he learned about Plame's employment from a State Department memo that did not mention her covert status, and that he had no knowledge of it at the time. In 40 years of reading classified materials, Armitage said in a telephone interview, "I have never seen in a memo . . . a covert agent's name."\
Novak's disclosure of Plame's CIA employment ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the leak. In October of last year, a grand jury indicted vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges of lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters about Plame, forcing his resignation and embarrassing the White House.
But Armitage, who said he testified about his actions to a grand jury three times, was not charged for making the disclosure, a circumstance he attributes to his candor in speaking with investigators about his action. He turned over his computers and never even hired an attorney, Armitage said, because "I did not need an attorney to tell me to tell the truth."
The confirmation of Armitage's role has provoked criticism of both him and the special counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who learned of it shortly after his appointment in 2003. Some have questioned why Armitage waited so long to speak up about it, and why Fitzgerald spent two years appearing to chase a question that had already been answered.