Blitzer Asks Richard Armitage About Valerie Plame Leak

On Sunday's "Late Edition," CNN host Wolf Blitzer asked former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage about his role in accidentally leaking that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, an event often ignored as most media coverage has focused on Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. While Armitage agreed with Plame's contention that what he did was "very foolish," he also argued that he believed her status not to be covert because he had "never seen, ever, in 43 years of having a security clearance, a covert operative's name in a memo." When asked by Blitzer if he had assumed that she was "just an analyst" at the CIA, Armitage responded: "That's what it, not only assumed it, that's what the message said, and she was publicly chairing, chairing a meeting." (Transcript follows)

Blitzer brought up the subject as he was reaching the end of the interview, which was primarily about foreign policy concerns like Pakistan. The CNN host played a clip of Plame accusing Armitage of doing "a very foolish thing," to which Armitage agreed, but also added an explanation of his actions. Armitage: "They're not words on which I disagree. I think it was extraordinarily foolish of me. There was no ill intent on my part, and never seen, ever, in 43 years of having a security clearance, a covert operative's name in a memo. The only reason I knew a Mrs. Wilson, not Mrs. Plame, worked at the agency was because I saw it in a memo. But I don't disagree with her words, to a large measure."

Blitzer continued his questioning to clarify Armitage's answer:

BLITZER: Normally, in memos, they don't name covert operatives?

ARMITAGE: I've never seen one named.

BLITZER: And so you assumed she was, what, just an analyst over at the CIA?

ARMITAGE: That's what it, not only assumed it, that's what the message said, and she was publicly chairing, chairing a meeting.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Sunday November 11 "Late Edition" on CNN:

WOLF BLITZER: It's now been well-known that you were the first administration official to tell Robert Novak, the syndicated columnist, about Valerie Plame Wilson's identity as a CIA operative. And that started, in effect, he wrote a column after that, a whole chain of events, we all know what happened as a result. I spoke with Valerie Plame Wilson the other day in "The Situation Room," and I want you to listen to what she said. ...

VALERIE PLAME, from "The Situation Room": Mr. Armitage did a very foolish thing. He's been around Washington for decades. He should know better. He's a senior government official. Whether he knew where exactly I worked in the CIA, he had no rights to go talking to a reporter about where I worked. That was strictly off limits.

BLITZER: Now, those are strong words from Valerie Plame Wilson.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: They're not words on which I disagree. I think it was extraordinarily foolish of me. There was no ill intent on my part, and never seen, ever, in 43 years of having a security clearance, a covert operative's name in a memo. The only reason I knew a Mrs. Wilson, not Mrs. Plame, worked at the agency was because I saw it in a memo. But I don't disagree with her words, to a large measure.

BLITZER: Normally, in memos, they don't name covert operatives?

ARMITAGE: I've never seen one named.

BLITZER: And so you assumed she was, what, just an analyst over at the CIA?

ARMITAGE: That's what it, not only assumed it, that's what the message said, and she was publicly chairing, chairing a meeting.

BLITZER: So when you told Robert Novak that Joe Wilson, the former U.S. ambassador's wife worked at the CIA and she was involved somehow in getting him this trip to Africa to look for the enriched uranium if there were enriched uranium going to Iraq, you simply assumed that she was not a clandestine officer of the CIA?

ARMITAGE: Even Mr. Novak has said that he used the word "operative," and misused it. No one ever said "operative." And I not only assumed it, as I say, I've never seen a covert agent's name in a memo. However, that doesn't take away from what Mrs. Plame said. It was foolish. Yeah, sure it was.

BLITZER: So you agree with her?

ARMITAGE: Yes, absolutely.

BLITZER: All right.