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Context of 'September 13, 2006: Novak: Armitage Mischaracterized Leak Conversation'

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Columnist Robert Novak, who outed Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA status in a column in July 2003 (see July 14, 2003), is questioned by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the Plame Wilson leak (see December 30, 2003). Novak has already discussed some of his knowledge of Plame Wilson’s covert CIA status with FBI investigators (see October 7, 2003). As with the FBI session, the Fitzgerald interview takes place at the law offices of Swidler Berlin, the firm representing Novak. Fitzgerald comes to the interview with waivers (see January 2-5, 2004) from Novak’s sources (see January 12, 2004) for his column outing Plame Wilson—White House political strategist Karl Rove and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see July 8, 2003), as well as a waiver from CIA official Bill Harlow, who asked Novak not to divulge Plame Wilson’s identity when Novak called him with the information from his other sources that Plame Wilson was a CIA official (see Before July 14, 2003). Novak is uncomfortable in accepting that Fitzgerald’s waivers make it ethically acceptable for him to disclose the three men as his sources, but his lawyer, James Hamilton, says he will almost certainly lose a court challenge as to their propriety. Novak will later write, “I answered questions using the names of Rove, Harlow, and my primary source,” which at the time of his writing had not yet been revealed as Armitage. [Human Events, 7/12/2006] Novak will be questioned again several weeks later (see February 5, 2004).

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Bill Harlow, James Hamilton, Karl C. Rove, Robert Novak, Valerie Plame Wilson, Swidler Berlin, Richard Armitage

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters writes that Robert Novak, the conservative columnist who outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA agent (see July 14, 2003), has, in writing about his interactions with the federal agents investigating the leak (see July 12, 2006), “repeated a number of false and contradictory statements regarding the investigation and the manner in which he learned of Plame [Wilson]‘s identity.” Novak did reveal White House political strategist Karl Rove as one of his sources, but did not reveal his “primary source,” then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see July 8, 2003). [Media Matters, 7/12/2006] Author Marcy Wheeler, who blogs at The Next Hurrah under the moniker “Emptywheel,” concurs, and cites similar instances of Novak’s contradictory statements. [Marcy Wheeler, 7/13/2006]
Contradicts Earlier Statements - Novak does not reveal Armitage’s name, but he does discuss something of the Armitage disclosure, saying that Armitage’s revelation was “inadvertent.” Though this coincides with other Novak discussions, where he has called Armitage’s discussion of Plame Wilson “offhand” (see September 29, 2003 and October 1, 2003), it contradicts information he gave to two Newsday reporters in the days following his column’s publication: at that time, he told the reporters that he “was given” the Plame Wilson information and his sources—Rove and Armitage—considered the information “significant” (see July 21, 2003).
Misrepresents Plame Wilson's Involvement in Husband's Mission - Novak also repeats the falsehood that Plame Wilson “helped initiate” her husband, Joseph Wilson’s, 2002 trip to Niger (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, and October 17, 2003), a falsehood he claims has been “confirmed” by a 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee report (see July 9, 2004). And two years previously, Novak admitted that the committee failed to reach a conclusion on Plame Wilson’s involvement in the Niger mission (see July 15, 2004). [Media Matters, 7/12/2006]
Story Substantially Different from Rove's - Wheeler points out that Novak’s version of events is substantially different from the events Rove has laid out. According to Novak, Rove already knew Plame Wilson’s name; Rove says he neither knew the name nor divulged it to Novak. Novak says Rove called him, but Rove says Novak placed the call. According to Rove, when Novak asked about Joseph Wilson’s wife being a CIA official, he replied, “Oh, you’ve heard that too,” but Novak suggests Rove said something more. Novak also contradicts his earlier reporting, where he implied he confirmed (not learned) Plame Wilson’s identity from Who’s Who in America (see October 1, 2003). Moreover, Novak told reporters in 2003 that White House officials gave him the information on Plame Wilson, “I didn’t dig it out” (see July 21, 2003), implying that he was called by Rove and perhaps other White House officials as well. In his October 1, 2003 article, he wrote that he called Rove (whom he identified then as “another official”). [Marcy Wheeler, 7/13/2006] On Fox News, Novak says that the original reporting that he “was given” the information on Plame Wilson was “a misstatement.” He goes on: “That was an interview I did on the telephone with Newsday shortly after it appeared. Some of the things that they said that quoted me that are not in quotes are paraphrases, and they’re incorrect, such as the whole idea that they [the White House] planted this story with me. I never told that to the Newsday reporters.” [Christy Hardin Smith, 7/13/2006]
Contradicts CIA Official's Account of Interview - Media Matters also notes that Novak’s account of his discussion of Plame Wilson’s identity with then-CIA spokesman Bill Harlow is substantially different from Harlow’s account (see (July 11, 2003). Harlow has said, both in interviews and in grand jury testimony, that he warned Novak not to divulge Plame Wilson’s name or CIA status in the strongest terms he could without himself divulging classified information. [Media Matters, 7/12/2006]

Entity Tags: Richard Armitage, Karl C. Rove, Bill Harlow, Joseph C. Wilson, Marcy Wheeler, Robert Novak, Media Matters, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Conservative columnist Robert Novak, who outed CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson three years ago (see July 14, 2003) after receiving the information about her from, among other sources, then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see July 8, 2003), writes of the Armitage leak. Novak writes that he feels free to discuss it publicly now that Armitage has publicly admitted to being one of Novak’s sources (see September 7, 2006).
Accusation of Misrepresentation - Novak says Armitage misrepresented the nature of their conversation, and wants “to set the record straight based on firsthand knowledge.” Armitage was not passing along information that he “thought” might be the case, Novak writes. “Rather, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked [counterproliferation], and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Amb[assador] Joseph Wilson. Second, Armitage did not slip me this information as idle chitchat, as he now suggests. He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column.”
Armitage Leak Discredits 'Left-Wing Fantasy' of White House Smear Campaign - Novak then says that Armitage’s identity as one of the Plame Wilson leakers discredits the “left-wing fantasy of a well-crafted White House conspiracy to destroy Joe and Valerie Wilson” (see June 2003, June 3, 2003, June 11, 2003, June 12, 2003, June 19 or 20, 2003, July 6, 2003, July 6-10, 2003, July 7, 2003 or Shortly After, 8:45 a.m. July 7, 2003, 9:22 a.m. July 7, 2003, July 7-8, 2003, July 11, 2003, (July 11, 2003), July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003, July 18, 2003, October 1, 2003, and April 5, 2006). Armitage was a long-time skeptic of the Iraq invasion, as was Wilson, and Novak himself writes that he “long had opposed military intervention in Iraq.” After his July 2003 column, “[z]ealous foes of George W. Bush transformed me improbably into the president’s lapdog.… The news that [Armitage] and not Karl Rove was the leaker was devastating news for the Left.” Novak is apparently not admitting that Rove was a primary source for the Plame Wilson column (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Novak also writes that he finds it difficult to believe Armitage’s claim that he only realized he was Novak’s source for the leak after reading Novak’s October 1, 2003 column (see October 1, 2003). He calls Armitage’s disclosure “tardy” and “tainted,” since in Novak’s view, Armitage’s silence “enabled partisan Democrats in Congress to falsely accuse Rove of being my primary source.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/14/2006]
Author: Novak Changed Story for Fourth Time - Progressive author and blogger Marcy Wheeler accuses Novak of “changing his story for the fourth time” (see July 12, 2006) in his recounting of the Armitage episode. In his original column (based in part on Armitage’s confirmation—see July 8, 2003 and July 14, 2003), Novak called Valerie Plame Wilson “an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction,” and credited that information to an unnamed CIA source (later revealed to be CIA spokesman Bill Harlow—see (July 11, 2003) and Before July 14, 2003). In an October 2003 column (see October 1, 2003), Novak named “a senior administration official”—Armitage—as his source for Plame Wilson’s status as an employee of the CIA’s counterproliferation division, which works on WMD (see April 2001 and After). During a subsequent interview with Fox News anchor Brit Hume, Novak again changed Armitage’s description of Plame Wilson’s duties at the CIA. Novak has also changed his story on whether Armitage’s leak was deliberate or merely “chitchat,” as Armitage has claimed. Novak told Newsday reporters that he “didn’t dig out” information on Plame Wilson, “it was given to me.… They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it.” In his October 2003 column, he revised his story, saying he “did not receive a planned leak” and called Armitage’s information “an offhand revelation.” In this current column, he reverts to claiming that Armitage deliberately leaked the information. [Marcy Wheeler, 9/13/2006]

Entity Tags: Marcy Wheeler, Joseph C. Wilson, George W. Bush, Bill Harlow, Karl C. Rove, Richard Armitage, Robert Novak, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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