Armitage Says He 'Screwed Up,' Alludes That Plame Was Not Covert
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Asked how he feels about what happened, Armitage said, "Every day, I think I let down the president. I let down the Secretary of State. I let down my department, my family and I also let down Mr. and Mrs. Wilson." More:
[Armitage] says he was reading Novak's newspaper column again, on Oct. 1, 2003, and "he said he was told by a non-partisan gun slinger."
"I almost immediately called Secretary Powell and said, 'I'm sure that was me,'" Armitage says.
Armitage immediately met with FBI agents investigating the leak.
"I told them that I was the inadvertent leak," Armitage says. He didn't get a lawyer, however.
"First of all, I felt so terrible about what I'd done that I felt I deserved whatever was coming to me. And secondarily, I didn't need an attorney to tell me to tell the truth. I as already doing that," Armitage explains. "I was not intentionally outing anybody. As I say, I have tremendous respect for Ambassador. Wilson's African credentials. I didn't know anything about his wife and made an offhand comment. I didn't try to out anybody."
That was nearly three years ago, but the political firestorm over who leaked Valerie Plame's identity continued to burn as Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald began hauling White House officials and journalists before a grand jury.
Armitage says he didn't come forward because "the special counsel, once he was appointed, asked me not to discuss this and I honored his request."
"I thought every day about how I'd screwed up," he adds.
Curiously absent from interview that aired last night on CBS, however, is the following exchange in which Armitage reveals what he said to Novak about Plame.
So, what exactly did he tell Novak?
"At the end of a wide-ranging interview he asked me, 'Why did the CIA send Ambassador (Wilson) to Africa?' I said I didn't know, but that she worked out at the agency," Armitage says.
Armitage says he told Novak because it was "just an offhand question." "I didn't put any big import on it and I just answered and it was the last question we had," he says.
Armitage adds that while the document was classified, "it doesn't mean that every sentence in the document is classified.
"I had never seen a covered agent's name in any memo in, I think, 28 years of government," he says.
He adds that he thinks he referred to Wilson's wife as such, or possibly as "Mrs. Wilson." He never referred to her as Valerie Plame, he adds.
"I didn't know the woman's name was Plame. I didn't know she was an operative," he says.
In other words, as Tom Maguire points out, "We can score a big 'We told you so' about how unlikely it would be to see a covered agent's name bandied about in a memo (barring an error, as happened here.)"