U.S. editorial excerpts -4-.
Selected editorial excerpts from the U.S. press:
FESS UP, MR. ARMITAGE (The Wall Street Journal, New York)
From its very start, the ballyhooed case of who leaked the name of CIA analyst Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak has been drenched in partisan politics and media hypocrisy. The more we learn, however, the more it also reveals about the internal dysfunction of the Bush Administration and the lack of loyalty among some of its most senior officials.
The latest news is that the Bush official who first disclosed Ms. Plame's identity was none other than former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. According to a new book by liberal journalists David Corn and Michael Isikoff, Mr. Armitage was Mr. Novak's primary source for his now famous column of July 14, 2003, that first publicly revealed Ms. Plame's CIA pedigree.
Mr. Armitage, recall, was part of Colin Powell's team at State and well known as an internal Administration opponent of the ''neo-cons'' who supported the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The book alleges that Mr. Armitage knew as early as October 2003 that he was Mr. Novak's prime source, yet he kept quiet about it even as his colleagues in the Administration were dragged through years of criminal investigation and media accusations as the possible leaker. Even now Mr. Armitage hasn't admitted to being the leaker, though doing so would help to clarify several things about the case.
For starters, fessing up would put to rest the conspiracy theories once and for all. Bush opponents have continued to promote this myth, with Mr. Wilson writing in June 2004 that ''the conspiracy to destroy us was most likely conceived -- and carried out -- within the office of the vice president of the United States.'' Not a word of that was true.
Mr. Novak hasn't himself confirmed that Mr. Armitage was his primary source, since Mr. Armitage hasn't yet given him leave to do so. But Mr. Novak has written that his source was not a ''partisan gunslinger,'' and the columnist has also said that he himself put in the call to Mr. Rove to confirm what he'd first heard from his main source (presumably Mr. Armitage). The White House, in short, was not engaged in any campaign to ''out'' Ms. Plame.
All of this matters because it also casts doubt on the thoroughness and fairness of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's probe that began in December 2003. The prosecutor never did indict anyone for leaking Ms. Plame's name, though this was supposedly the act of ''treason'' that triggered the political clamor for a probe. Instead, he has indicted Mr. Libby for perjury and obstruction of justice.
Mr. Fitzgerald has nonetheless also tried to spin an aura that Mr. Libby was responsible for outing Ms. Plame. In his press conference on October 28, 2005, the prosecutor asserted that ''In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to [former New York Times reporter] Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.'' But we have since learned that Mr. Armitage also told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward about Ms. Plame -- a fact that Mr. Fitzgerald never uncovered until Mr. Woodward came forward after he heard Mr. Fitzgerald make that false public assertion.
Strangely, Mr. Armitage never seems to have told Mr. Fitzgerald that he'd talked to Mr. Woodward. And Mr. Fitzgerald never seems to have asked to see Mr. Armitage's appointment calendar, which would have showed his meeting with Mr. Novak. It's all enough to make us wonder if Mr. Fitzgerald didn't buy into the liberal ''conspiracy'' theory of this case from the start and target the White House while giving Mr. Armitage a pass.
As for Justice, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the case in an act of political abdication. That left then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey in charge, and he also presumably knew by October 2003 about Mr. Armitage's role as the leaker who started it all. Yet if the book's account is correct, he too misled the White House with his silence. Mr. Comey is also the official who let Mr. Fitzgerald alter his mandate from its initial find-the-leaker charge to the obstruction and perjury raps against Mr. Libby that are all this case has come down to. Remind us never to get in a foxhole with either Mr. Comey or the Powell crowd.
There is more to be said at a future date about the specific case against Mr. Libby. But for now the Armitage news should concern one man in particular, and that's the President of the United States. How much differently would he have behaved had he known about Mr. Armitage's role in 2003? Would he have kept echoing the media-liberal spin that there was some nefarious White House leaker to discover, and continue to let the aides who most believed in his policies -- Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove -- be hounded by a special counsel? And why has he tolerated so much insubordination to his policies?