Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search


Leopold: Woodward Provides Clues About His Source

Woodward Provides Clues About His Source

By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report
Tuesday 22 November 2005

Embattled Washington Post editor Bob Woodward provided an important clue that may help shed light on the identity of the person who told him in June 2003 that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA agent.

In an interview with "Larry King Live" Monday night, Woodward said he realized that he was the first journalist to learn of Plame Wilson's covert CIA status when Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald announced the indictment last month of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, contradicting evidence that said former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who was jailed for 85 days for refusing to testify to a grand jury about her source, was the first reporter who was told about Plame Wilson.

At that news conference, Fitzgerald said that Libby was the first known government official to disclose Plame Wilson's identity to a member of the media - Judith Miller - on June 23, 2003.

"I went, 'Whoa,' because I knew I'd learned about this in mid-June, a week, 10 days before," Woodward said. "I then went into incredibly aggressive reporting mode and called the source the beginning of the next week," and the source said to Woodward at least three times "I have to go to the prosecutor."

During that time, specifically on June 12, 2003, Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus had written an in-depth account of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's - Plame Wilson's husband - fact-finding trip to Niger a year earlier to investigate what turned out to be false claims that Iraq had tried to purchase yellowcake uranium from the African country. Wilson told Pincus that the administration knowingly included the phony uranium claims in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address to get Congress and the American public to back the Iraq war.

Pincus didn't name Wilson in his story, but his report set off a chain of events that angered top aides in Cheney's office and led many of those officials to leak Plame Wilson's identity and CIA status to a handful of reporters, including Woodward, in an attempt to silence Wilson from speaking out against the administration.

Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter whose investigative stories on the Watergate scandal forced the resignation of President Richard Nixon, made a stunning announcement last week when he revealed that he was told about Plame Wilson in mid-June 2003 by "current or former administration officials."

Now that Woodward has narrowed the date of his conversation with the unnamed administration official to June 13 and June 16, 2003, the list of potential suspects can easily be boiled down to two: National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

On June 10, 2003, a classified State Department memo containing information about Plame Wilson was drafted by Bureau of Intelligence and Research head Carl Ford for Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman and was sent to Libby. Plame, who in this memo was identified by her married name, Valerie Wilson, is listed in the second paragraph of the three-page memo, which was marked "(SNF)" for secret, non-foreign.

The INR memo was promptly sent to Libby that day. Libby, according to attorneys close to Fitzgerald's investigation, had shared its contents with then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy at the time, Stephen Hadley, who a month later would take responsibility for not omitting the reference to Niger and Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium there from Bush's State of the Union address. Rice, through her spokeswoman, has denied speaking to Woodward about Plame Wilson. Hadley would neither confirm nor deny that he was Woodward's source when pressed by reporters last week.

However, attorneys close to Fitzgerald's probe have fingered Hadley as Woodward's source. Still, there are media reports citing Armitage as being Woodward's source because, unlike other key administration officials, including President Bush, his Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Armitage hasn't issued a vehement denial saying otherwise. But Armitage was out of the country last week and Hadley is a known source for Woodward's previous books that were written after 9/11.

Two days after the INR memo was sent to Libby, June 12, 2003, Pincus published his story about Wilson's Niger trip in the Post. The same day, Armitage asked INR to draft a memo on what Pincus had reported. Ford sent Armitage the same memo he had sent to Libby, which was also sent to John Bolton, the United Nations ambassador who at the time had been Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

"After Pincus," a former intelligence officer told Time magazine in a story published July 31, "there was general discussion with the National Security Council and the White House and State Department and others" about Wilson's trip and its origins.

Time reported that a source familiar with the memo says neither Powell nor Armitage spoke to the White House about it until after July 6.

Since the catalyst for the leak had been the Niger allegations Wilson had called into question, it's important to note that the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research had long expressed doubts about the veracity of the documents purporting to show an attempt by Iraq to purchase uranium from Niger.

Greg Thielmann, a former official at the INR, had said he was "quite confident" that the INR had shared its doubts about the authenticity of the Niger documents with top officials at the State Department, including Powell and Armitage, who, behind the scenes had been battling with senior officials in the Defense Department and at the White House over dubious intelligence it was forced to rely upon before the war that showed Iraq as being an imminent threat as well as having a cache of biological and chemical weapons, all of which has been proven to be untrue.

That makes it difficult to comprehend Armitage being Woodward's source on Plame Wilson. Although Woodward says he believed the information about Plame Wilson was passed on to him in a "casual" manner by his source while he was doing research for his book Plan of Attack, it seems more likely that if Armitage told him anything it would have been something along the lines of how his agency disagreed with the administration's intelligence on Iraq and the infighting that took place behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, Hadley's role in the Niger forgeries has been well-documented, and it would appear that a successful campaign to discredit Wilson by leaking information about his wife's CIA status to Woodward, and perhaps other reporters, would save the former Deputy National Security Adviser from being publicly humiliated a month later.

It was after all the authenticity of the Niger documents that Wilson had challenged that led to his wife's outing.

In September 2002, Hadley had met with the head of Italian intelligence, Nicollo Pollari, who was implicated in pushing the bogus claims that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. Hadley denied that he discussed uranium, but numerous reports say otherwise.

Pollari had been trying to provide the CIA with evidence that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, citing the now-debunked documents. The CIA had previously rebuffed his claims, asserting they were unfounded.

On January 28, 2003, Bush claimed that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Africa in his State of the Union address. It is the very claim that Hadley had seen from Pollari and the very claim that the CIA rejected.

Two days later, the Washington Post reported that Hadley was acting as liaison between the White House and the Senate Intelligence Committee in helping to "sift through intelligence with the help of the CIA, and trying to determine what can be released without damaging the agency's ability to gather similar information."

In a June 13, 2003, column written by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff in response - a month before Plame Wilson's name was published for the first time by conservative columnist Robert Novak and around the time that Woodward says his source revealed her identity to him - to public claims by Rice that the NSC was totally unaware the Niger documents were forgeries, Kristoff said he was told by his sources that the NSC, particularly Stephen Hadley, knew all along the documents were phony.

"My understanding is that while Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet may not have told Mr. Bush that the Niger documents were forged, lower CIA officials did tell both the Vice President's office and National Security Council staff members."

Armitage may very well issue that denial when he returns to the US.


Jason Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak invesigation, and will be a regular contributer to t r u t h o u t.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Gordon Campbell: On The Use Of Existing Drugs To Reduce The Effects Of Coronavirus

So now, we’re all getting up to speed with the travel bans, the rigorous handwashing and drying, the social distancing, and the avoidance of public transport wherever possible. Right. At a wider level…so far, the public health system has ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Oil Market And Regulation Crusades

Safe to say, Vladimir Putin did not expect the response he has received amidships from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Earlier, Russia chose to walk away from the OPEC talks in Vienna that were aimed at reaching an agreement on how to reduce world oil production (and protect oil prices) in the light of the fall in demand being caused by the coronavirus. No doubt, Russia and its allies in the US shale industry probably glimpsed an opportunity to undercut OPEC and seize some of its customers. Bad move. In reply, Saudi Arabia has smashed the oil market by hugely ramping up production, signing up customers and drastically cutting the oil price in a fashion designed to knock Russia and other oil suppliers right out of contention. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On 22 Short Takes About Super Tuesday

With obvious apologies to the Simpsons….Here’s my 22 short takes on the 14 Super Tuesday primaries that combined yesterday to produce a common narrative –Bernie Sanders NOT running away with the nomination, Joe Biden coming back from the dead, and the really, really rich guy proving to be really, really bad at politics. In the months ahead, it will be fascinating to see if the real Joe Biden can live up to the idea of Joe Biden that people voted for yesterday – namely, the wise old guy who can save the country from the political extremism of the right and the left... More>>

Gordon Campbell On Shane Jones: A Liability No-One Needs To Bear

New Zealand First has needed a diversion after weeks of bad coverage over its dodgy handling of donations, but it really, really doesn’t need what Shane Jones has chosen to provide. According to Jones, New Zealand has ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Strong Man Legacies: Burying Mubarak

Reviled strongmen of one era are often the celebrated ones of others. Citizens otherwise tormented find that replacements are poor, in some cases even crueller, than the original artefact. Such strongmen also serve as ideal alibis for rehabilitation ... More>>

Caitlin Johnstone: Humanity Is Making A Very Important Choice When It Comes To Assange

The propagandists have all gone dead silent on the WikiLeaks founder they previously were smearing with relentless viciousness, because they no longer have an argument. The facts are all in, and yes, it turns out the US government is certainly and undeniably working to exploit legal loopholes to imprison a journalist for exposing its war crimes. That is happening, and there is no justifying it... More>>

Gail Duncan: Reframing Welfare Report

Michael Joseph Savage, the architect of the 1938 Social Security Act, wouldn’t recognise today’s Social Security Act as having anything to do with the kind, cooperative, caring society he envisioned 80 years ago. Instead society in 2020 has been reduced ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Addiction To Chinese Student Fees

Last week, Australian PM Scott Morrison extended its ban on foreign visitors from or passing through from mainland China – including Chinese students - for a third week. New Zealand has dutifully followed suit, with our travel ban ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Coronavirus, And The Iowa Debacle

As Bloomberg says, the coronavirus shutdown is creating the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment. On the upside, the mortality rate with the current outbreak is lower than with SARS in 2003, but (for a number of reasons) the economic impact this time ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Dodging A Bullet Over The Transport Cost Over-Runs

As New Zealand gears up to begin its $6.8 billion programme of large scale roading projects all around the country, we should be aware of this morning’s sobering headlines from New South Wales, where the cost overruns on major transport projects ... More>>


  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog