Plame-Leak Deep Throat
By Jason Leopold
22 March, 2006
He is referred to as "official
one" and he is the mysterious senior Bush administration official
who unmasked the identity of an undercover CIA operative to Pulitzer
Prize-winning reporter Bob Woodward in mid-June 2003 and conservative
columnist Robert Novak a month later.
The identity of this official
is shrouded in secrecy. In fact, his name, government status, and the
substance of his conversation with Woodward about the undercover officer
are under a protective seal in US District Court for the District of
But Woodward tape-recorded
the interview he had with "official one." Woodward gave a
copy of the tape to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, according
to a Feb. 24 federal court hearing, a transcript of which was obtained
by this reporter.
Woodward emerged as central
figure in the leak of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson
in November. For the better part of two years, Woodward had publicly
discounted the importance of the Plame Wilson leak and had referred
to Fitzgerald as a "junkyard dog" prosecutor in interviews
during the course of the investigation. He then revealed in November
that he had been told about Plame Wilson's CIA employment in June 2003
- before any other journalist.
Woodward wrote a first-person
account in the Washington Post in November about the individual who
told him that Plame Wilson worked for the CIA. He identified his source
as a "senior administration official." He also said that the
interview with the official who told him about Plame Wilson had been
set up simply as "confidential background interviews for my 2004
book 'Plan of Attack' about the lead-up to the Iraq war, ongoing reporting
for the Washington Post and research for a book on Bush's second term
to be published in 2006."
White House officials who
are sympathetic to I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President
Dick Cheney's former chief of staff who is charged with perjury and
obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to a grand jury and FBI investigators
about his role in the Plame Wilson leak, say "official one"
is former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
But numerous senior officials
at the State Department, the CIA, and the National Security Council
have said that "official one" is National Security Adviser
Stephen Hadley. Hadley had been a source of information for Woodward
when he wrote Plan of Attack, according to the book's footnotes.
Hadley was also a member
of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), which was formed in August 2002
by Andrew Card, President Bush's chief of staff, to publicize the threat
posed by Saddam Hussein. WHIG operated out of Cheney's office. The group
has become wrapped up in Fitzgerald's investigation. The special prosecutor
last year subpoenaed the WHIG's emails and other documents.
But news reports over the
past week have given more weight to Armitage as Woodward's source, based
solely on the fact that former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee gave
an interview to Vanity Fair suggesting that it's fair to assume Armitage
was Woodward's source. Bradlee issued a statement a day after the article
was published saying he was misquoted and never mentioned Armitage.
One thing is for sure, neither
Hadley nor Armitage are commenting, not even to issue a denial. Last
week, Armitage's assistant at his lobbying firm, Armitage International,
said last week that Armitage would comment on the "rumors"
once Fitzgerald completed his investigation. Hadley's spokesman would
not confirm or deny anything related to the National Security Adviser's
involvement in the leak.
It does appear, however,
that Libby's defense team is actively trying to shift the blame for
the leak onto other parts of the government, including the State Department,
the CIA and the National Security Council. They have engaged in a game
of semantics, saying that when Libby testified that he heard about Plame
Wilson from reporters his testimony wasn't limited to a specific reporter.
With Woodward's tape-recorded
interview now in the hands of the special counsel, the attorneys representing
Libby have zeroed in on three words "official one" apparently
uttered during his conversation with Woodward: "Everyone knows
But one of the attorneys
on Libby's defense team wasn't supposed to mention the existence of
the tape-recorded interview in open court because it may cause the unknown
government official to come under intense media scrutiny.
"Your Honor, there is
one thing that I neglected to mention and again this is subject to filings
that have been made under seal but there is, in fact, a transcript of
a tape recording that involves official one," Libby's attorney
William Jeffress said during the two and a half hour hearing.
"In the particular transcript
there is, and the government filed something else yesterday, there is
a factual dispute as to what is said or what is meant by a portion of
the transcript wherein it appears the official saying, "everyone
knows it," referring to the wife's employment at the CIA,"
Jeffress added. "We have not heard that tape. If, in fact, as the
transcript suggests that one official said, 'Everyone knows it,' who
did he mean by 'Everyone knows it?'"
Libby's attorneys argued
that those three words refer to reporters, meaning that it was common
knowledge among journalists that Plame Wilson was employed by the CIA,
even though her status was classified.
Fitzgerald disagreed with
"Your Honor, now that
we have sort of burned what was sealed, my understanding of that conversation,
there are people talking over each other, my understanding is that was
a reference that everyone knows it, that Mr. Wilson is the unnamed ambassador,"
Fitzgerald said. "Mr. Wilson didn't reveal himself as the unnamed
ambassador until July 6. This was prior to that time. We turned it over
in an abundance of caution but I don't believe that says it, and frankly
there is a very limited number of reporters that we found out who had
known it. I can't represent we know every reporter because we took seriously
the attorney general guidelines."
faces no criminal charges in the ongoing investigation into the leak
of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson and is said to be cooperating
with the special counsel's two year-old probe.
But Libby's defense attorneys
suggested during the February 24 court hearing that "official one"
is responsible for the leak.
Jeffress and Theodore Wells,
another attorney on Libby's defense team, have argued that Fitzgerald
should provide the defense with all of the evidence his investigation
has obtained regarding "official one" because it's crucial
in proving that Libby wasn't lying when he testified that he heard about
Plame Wilson's CIA work from reporters.
"Your Honor, simply
it is a fact that is key to this case to know what reporters out there
knew or had heard about Wilson's wife, what they were saying to each
other, what they were saying to government officials," Jeffress
said. "And here is a key person, the first person that we know
of, according to the evidence, actually discussed Mr. Wilson's wife's
employment with a reporter and not only did it then but did it again
with a separate reporter later. This is some person not in the White
At the February 24 court
hearing, Jeffress, Libby's attorney, in arguing that the defense should
be provided with additional evidence such as handwritten notes, transcripts,
letters, emails and phone logs Fitzgerald collected during the investigation,
said "official one" discussed Plame Wilson's CIA status with
at least two reporters, one of whom told Libby that "official one"
told him that Plame Wilson was a CIA officer.
Sources close to the case
have identified Woodward and Novak as the reporters "official one"
spoke to about Plame Wilson.
Fitzgerald argued that Libby's
attorneys are routinely circumventing the facts surrounding the case
against Libby, which is about perjury not who first unmasked Plame Wilson's
"Your Honor, the one
thing that is clear is we should focus on what the allegations are,"
Fitzgerald said. "The indictment alleges that on Monday Mr. Libby
told [former White House press secretary Ari] Fleischer this information
about Mr. Wilson's wife and indicated that it wasn't widely known, on
"On Wednesday he claims
to have learned it as if it were new for the first time from ["Meet
the Press's" Tim] Russert in his conversation even though we've
alleged six different conversations, more than six conversations in
the month before he discussed it with everyone from the vice president
to people at the CIA, to ranking officials at the State Department,"
© 2006 Jason Leopold