The book I co-wrote with Michael Isikoff, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, has set off a dispute between conservative columnist Bob Novak and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
The book–which recounts the behind-the-scenes battles that went on within the CIA, the State Department, Congress and the White House over the administration’s case for war before and after the Iraq invasion–discloses that Armitage was the original source for the Novak column of July 14, 2003, which outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA “operative on weapons of mass destruction.” (The book also reveals that Valerie Wilson was operations chief for the clandestine Joint Task Force on Iraq and oversaw espionage operations aimed at gathering intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMDs.) Following the book’s release, Armitage publicly confessed and apologized to Valerie Wilson and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. He said that the leak had been an inadvertent slip, an act of gossip that came during an interview with Novak about Colin Powell and the State Department. Armitage claimed he had merely told Novak–in an off-the-cuff fashion–“I think his wife works out there,” meaning the CIA.
In a column published on Wednesday, Novak accuses Armitage of not telling the truth. The former No. 2 at the State Department, Novak insists, “obscured what he really did.” Novak writes:
First, Armitage did not, as he now indicates, merely pass on something he had heard and that he “thought” might be so. Rather, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked, and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Amb. 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.
This account depicts Armitage as deliberately leaking information on Valerie Wilson. In our book, Isikoff and I raise the possibility that Armitage might have told Novak about Wilson’s wife and her CIA employment to distance the State Department from the burgeoning Wilson imbroglio–as a way of saying, We here at State had nothing to do with that trouble-causing Wilson trip to Niger. Novak claims that Armitage “told me unequivocally that Mrs. Wilson worked in the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division and that she had suggested her husband’s mission.” (Valerie Wilson’s role in her husband’s mission has been overblown; Isikoff and I lay this out in the book.)