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Woodward's Plame-Leak Deep Throat

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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 Columbia.

But Woodward tape-recorded the interview he had with "official one." Woodward gave a copy of the tape and a transcript to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

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 Libby 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 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, have zeroed in on three words "official one" apparently uttered during his conversation with Woodward: "Everyone knows it."

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 the interpretation.

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
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