Woodward Tapes Reveal Armitage Outing CIA Operative

Monday, February 12th 2007, 9:13 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Jurors in the CIA leak trial on Monday heard a one-minute excerpt from Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward's tape recorder which revealed a top State Department official repeatedly discussing CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Woodward, who famously kept the identity of his ``Deep Throat'' Watergate source a secret for decades, testified that in June 2003, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage disclosed that the wife of a prominent Iraq war critic worked for the CIA.

Armitage mentioned several times, in sometimes explicit terms that had to be redacted, that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife was a weapons of mass destruction analyst for the CIA.

``His wife is at the agency and is a WMD analyst,'' Armitage said on the tape.

The exchange occurred at the end of a lengthy interview for one of Woodward's books on the Bush administration's war policy. Woodward did not publish an article on Plame, who was outed a month later by columnist Robert Novak. Armitage also was the source for that story.

Novak's column sparked an FBI investigation that Libby is accused of obstructing. He is accused of lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters regarding Plame but is not accused of the leak itself.

Woodward testified that he interviewed Libby a few weeks after talking to Armitage.

``I have no doubt Mr. Libby did not say anything about Mr. Wilson's wife,'' Woodward said.

Woodward's testimony doesn't directly undercut Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's case but it offers fodder to Libby's attorneys, who say Libby is being made a scapegoat by the administration.

Woodward, who protected the identity of former FBI official Mark Felt until Felt himself came forward in 2005 as the secret source for the Watergate stories, said Monday that he was only cooperating because Armitage had encouraged it. Armitage has acknowledged being the source for Woodward and Novak but has said it was accidental.

Woodward was the second defense witness to testify Monday. His Post colleague, Walter Pincus, testified that White House press secretary Ari Fleischer leaked him Plame's identity in July 2003.

Pincus, a veteran national security reporter, said he was talking to Fleischer for a story about weapons of mass destruction. He said Fleischer ``suddenly swerved off'' topic and asked why Pincus continued to write about Wilson.

``Don't you know his wife works for the CIA as an analyst?'' Pincus recalled Fleischer saying.

Fleischer testified that he first learned that information from Libby over lunch. Fleischer testified he leaked the information to three reporters during a presidential trip to Africa but he did not mention the Pincus conversation. In exchange for his testimony, prosecutors promised not to charge Fleischer.

Libby argues that he never discussed Plame with Fleischer. Pincus' testimony helps defense attorneys make the argument that Fleischer needed someone to blame to cover up his own leaking.

Novak, whose column triggered an FBI investigation into the leak, was also scheduled to testify Monday, attorneys said.