Latest speculation on Plamegate leak

With the revelation earlier this week that Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward learned of Valerie Plame’s identity about a month before Robert Novak’s now-infamous column in which he mentioned Plame’s name, the speculation is on as to who Woodward’s source was.

Unlike former NYTimes reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine correspondent Matt Cooper, Woodward’s source has not signed a waiver allowing Woodward to reveal his name publicly. Today, Evan Thomas and Michael Isikoff from Newsweek speculate that Woodward’s source is former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage (emphasis added by me):

So who is Novak’s source—and Woodward’s source—and why will his identity take the wind out of the brewing storm? One by one last week, a parade of current and former senior officials, including the CIA’s George Tenet and national-security adviser Stephen Hadley, denied being the source. A conspicuous exception was former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage, whose office would only say, “We’re not commenting.” He was one of a handful of top officials who had access to the information. He is an old source and friend of Woodward’s, and he fits Novak’s description of his source as “not a partisan gunslinger.” Woodward has indicated that he knows the identity of Novak’s source, which further suggests his source and Novak’s were one and the same.

If Armitage was the original leaker, that undercuts the argument that outing Plame was a plot by the hard-liners in the veep’s office to “out” Plame. Armitage was, if anything, a foe of the neocons who did not want to go to war in Iraq. He had no motive to discredit Wilson. On “Larry King Live” last month, Woodward was dismissive of the special prosecutor’s investigation, suggesting that the original leak was not the result of a “smear campaign” but rather a “kind of gossip, as chatter … I don’t see an underlying crime here.”

That’s probably because the more information comes out about this, the more it’s painfully obvious that indeed, there was no underlying crime. It is not a crime to try and discredit a political opponent, and it’s very clear the more you read about this case that Valerie Plame’s name was mentioned not to intentionally put her or her family in danger, but to discredit Joe Wilson as if to say “well, Wilson didn’t exactly come highly recommended. His wife, who works at the CIA in as an operative on WMD, suggested him for the trip.” There it is. Nothing more, nothing less.

Read more at Tom Maguire’s, where he is, as usual, on the case.

Update: Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell has rebuked Bob Woodward for being dismissive about the investigation for so long without telling anyone of his own involvement.

Update II: Welcome, Newsweek readers!

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