It's a poor workman who blames his tools, but - "Typepad" has eaten my original and uncharacteristically insightful post on the latest NY Times attempt to cover the Armitage story.
Bah. For the Saturday holiday edition Doug Johnston tackles the Armitage story under the "questions have been raised" rubric. In fact, the front-page headline is "New Questions About Inquiry in C.I.A. Leak", and this is the new question:
An enduring mystery of the C.I.A. leak case has been solved in recent days, but with a new twist: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, knew the identity of the leaker from his very first day in the special counsel’s chair, but kept the inquiry open for nearly two more years before indicting I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, on obstruction charges.
Now, the question of whether Mr. Fitzgerald properly exercised his prosecutorial discretion in continuing to pursue possible wrongdoing in the case has become the subject of rich debate on editorial pages and in legal and political circles.
Fine. The new story papers over some of the confusion caused by the odd headline in the Neil Lewis story last Wednesday. The original headline (since changed), "First Source of C.I.A. Leak Admits Role, Lawyer Says", certainly gave the impression that Armitage had hired a lawyer (although the text was more clear); Saturday, Johnston emphasizes this:
Mr. Armitage cooperated voluntarily in the case, never hired a lawyer and testified several times to the grand jury, according to people who are familiar with his role and actions in the case. He turned over his calendars, datebooks and even his wife’s computer in the course of the inquiry, those associates said.
With all that cooperation, Johnston never addresses another seemingly obvious question - how did Special Counsel Fitzgerald fail to discover that Armitage had leaked to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in June of 2003? For heavens sake, the AP discovered that the meeting with Woodward was right there on Armitage's appointment calendar. Was this willful deceit on the part of Armitage, incompetence on the part of Fitzgerald and his investigators, or what?
Neil Lewis at least noted the Woodward angle, burying it in the last two paragraphs; Johnston never does.
For comparison, the WaPo said this:
Three weeks before Armitage spoke to Novak, he made a similar, offhand disclosure of Plame's employment to Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward, the former colleague added. Armitage disclosed the conversation to Fitzgerald after Woodward reminded him of it in October 2005, and Woodward subsequently gave a deposition about the conversation.
"Of course, I have nothing to say about sources," Woodward said yesterday.
As an aside, I was surprised by this:
Mr. Armitage spoke with Mr. Novak on July 8, 2003, those familiar with Mr. Armitage’s actions said. Mr. Armitage did not know Mr. Novak, but agreed to meet with the columnist as a favor for a mutual friend, Kenneth M. Duberstein, a White House chief of staff during Ronald Reagan’s administration.
Novak has lauded Armitage repeatedly (but not quoted him, in the examples presented) and Armitage has been part of the Washington scene going back to the Reagan Administration, so the notion that these two don't know each other seems odd.
GOOD POINT: From "Ranger":
Interesting how this is phrased in the story:
"He turned over his calendars, datebooks and even his wife’s computer in the course of the inquiry, those associates said."
Was that before or after Woordward made him come forward about their conversation?
Maybe Armitage's full cooperation began in November 2005. I would still like to know if anyone has asked him whether he spoke with Judy Miller or Andrea Mitchell. And I am going to recycle my old summary (see MORE) of the Andrea Mitchell situation - people forget (or never realized) just how close to the Wilson/Niger story she was:
...Briefly, in late June she had scoop from State about the misplaced INR dissent (on Saddam's nuclear aspirations) in the NIE; she sat in for Russert and interviewed Joe Wilson on the July 6 'Meet The Press'; on July 8, she told the world that CIA sources told her that Wilson was sent by low-level CIA "operatives" (a word later used by Novak, to great controversy); on July 20, she had a public spat with Richard Armitage, who was no longer returning her phone calls; and on Sept 26 she broke the news of the CIA criminal referral of the Plame case.
And of course, there was her famous Oct 3, 2003 response that prior to Novak's column it was "widely known" amongst the journalists covering the Niger story that Wilson's wife was with the CIA. She has since disavowed that.
Put it together, and we have a reporter who was working this story and was almost surely in contact with a guy at State who leaked the Plame news to others. *OBVIOUSLY* that does not mean Armitage gave it to her, or that she mentioned it to Tim Russert, but it does suggest that Russert may have a reason for his careful denials.
And it suggests hat someone ought to ask both Mr. Armitage and Ms. Mitchell about this.