Here’s an interesting scene from Bob Woodward’s new book. It’s the summer of 2004 and George Tenet has resigned as CIA chief:
[White House chief of staff] Andy Card called [Deputy Secretary of State Richard] Armitage to see if he was interested in taking over the CIA.
No, Armitage replied emphatically.
“Can I ask the reason? We’re disappointed.”
Armitage replied that he could give the reason but he would prefer not to because it might hurt Cards feelings.
Card knew the problem for Armitage was Cheney and Rumsfeld. He nonetheless asked Powell if there was a way to persuade Armitage.
“You can ask him again,” Powell replied, “but he doesn’t fool around.” An Armitage no is a no. “My personal view is he won’t do it.”
What’s missing from Woodward’s account? One significant fact disclosed by Hubris: the Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (which I wrote with Michael Isikoff): that Armitage had leaked Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity to conservative columnist Robert Novak and had been under investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. At the time he was offered the CIA job, Armitage, who had cooperated with the investigation, might have no longer been a primary target of Fitzgerald (though he would later be reinvestigated by Fitzgerald for having failed to disclose to the special prosecutor that he had also discussed Valerie Wilson’s CIA employment with Woodward weeks before mentioning it to Novak), but his role in the leak was still a big secret.
He knew he had leaked classified information that had led to the outing of a CIA officer. Could he accept the CIA position and go through the confirmation process, knowing that at any moment the news could emerge that he had blown the cover of an undercover CIA employee? (And what if a senator asked him about the leak at the confirmation hearing?) There was no way he could place himself in such a possibly perilous position. It was dicey enough for him to remain at the State Department, realizing the Plame time bomb could detonate any time. And Woodward reports that months later–after the 2004 presidential election–the White House considered naming Armitage to the new position of national director of intelligence. Armitage was not interested. Woodward notes this was because, as Armitage told National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, “I just don’t know how I can work in an administration that lets Secretary Powell walk and keeps Mr. Rumsfeld.” But once again, he could not have accepted this position for the same reasons.