What Was Armitage Thinking?

It has been revealed that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage leaked the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak. What was Armitage's motive?

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DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

Confession, they say, is good for the soul.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

NPR senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: And so, at age 90, let me confess that along with a lot of other people, I seemed to have had it wrong about what has come to be called the Valerie Plame affair, or the CIA leak affair. All this time, it appeared that the Bush White House had orchestrated the leaked information that outed Miss Plame as a covert CIA officer. Supposedly it was in order to punish her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for dumping on the administration theory that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in the African country of Niger.

In a three-year investigation by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, only one person has so far been indicted, the former Cheney Chief of Staff Lewis Libby. And he was indicted not for exposing Miss Plame, but for perjury in concealing the facts from the grand jury. In that investigation, presidential aide Karl Rove appeared to be a prime suspect until he was specifically cleared by the prosecutor.

So who done it? Who was responsible for the leak, which in the first place resulted in a column by the right wing Robert Novak? That question appears to have been answered last week with the acknowledgment by Richard Armitage, who was Deputy Secretary of State under Colin Powell, that he done it. That is, at the end of a conversation about other matters, Armitage passed on to Novak as gossip that CIA Officer Plame had helped her husband get the CIA assignment to check on Iraq and African uranium.

But what was Armitage's motive? Neither he nor Secretary Powell was a hawk on the war in Iraq. He had no known reason for trying to harm Valerie Plame and her ambassadorial husband. Could it be that Armitage was simply playing the favorite game of official Washington - gossip - and that there was no neo-con conspiracy to undo the Wilsons? With great reluctance I say, well, maybe. And there goes a great conspiracy.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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