Thursday, May 18, 2006

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My quasi-inside (and, apparently, incorrect) dirt on the Plame Game

Steve Clemons also attended the Princeton conference on liberal internationalism. Today he reports as follows:

[O]ne other who was there was former National Security Agency Director Bobby Ray Inman.

Here is where it gets complicated. Inman told many of us a number of interesting things which I am going to treat off the record.

However, he said one very provocative thing about the CIA Valerie Plame outing investigation that I have confirmed that he has stated at other venues, publicly. I don't feel that Admiral Inman was guarded about his comments -- nor did he ask anyone he was speaking to to treat his comments with discretion.

So, I am only reporting this because he said it elsewhere....

What Inman shared with some of us -- and this was a repeated assertion from comments that I have confirmed that he made in Austin -- is that the person in Patrick Fitzgerald's bull's eye is [former Deputy Secretary of State] Richard Armitage.

I have written about Armitage many times in the past and hope that this rumor is incorrect.

But I do believe that Armitage was possibly a key source for Dana Priest and Mike Allen early in the Plame outing story and wrote such in November 2005. I don't have more information on whether Armitage was Novak's source or not -- and what legal consequences there might be, if any, if that was the case. I always assumed that Armitage was cooperating closely with Fitzgerald and would not be in any legal jeopardy.

After all, Armitage was recently knighted and a new oil firm board member.

But Inman stating this matters.

For those who attended the Princeton meetings who will no doubt read this and who may be surprised by my reporting Inman's comments -- do understand that I have been able to confirm that Admiral Inman made the same comments in other venues.

Inman stating that Richard Armitage is the target of indictment is news and could have some veracity because of who Inman is.

Tom Maguire, the dean of Plame Studies in the blogosphere, has several questions:
(1) Why would Inman know this? OK, as "simply one of the smartest people ever to come out of Washington or anywhere", he may know this as part of knowing everything. But maybe there is more.

(2) Do Inman and Armitage have bad blood? For example, some quick googling hints at an Armitage/Perot/Inman ruckus on missing Vietnam POWs, but who knows?

(3) What did Inman actually say? I have a pretty good opinion of Steve Clemons, who makes clear that he is delivering this news as testimony against interest. However, Dan Drezner and Peter Beinart were among the illuminati cited as being at the Princeton conference where this news nugget was delivered - did they pick up on this?

In response to Clemons and Maguire, here's what I can say:
1) I can confirm Inman's statements as Clemons reports them. I can confirm them because Inman made these assertions (and others that, like Steve, I will treat as off the record) to me and the others at my lunch table on the second day of the conference.

2) I would describe Inman's knowledge of this as coming from sources who would be/would have been in a position to know the fact chain on these events. It's not simply that a former NSA head still has automatic inside info privileges.

3) There was more that Inman said, and I'm tempted to spill all the beans -- but I'm not going to do it. It would be unfair to Inman, who has probably never heard of and would not necessarily have known he was talking to a blogger with any kind of audience. I know this stinks to the reader, but that's what my ethics tell me to do here. UPDATE: There is one other reason -- because this was a group lunch, and not me on a phone talking to a source, I didn't and couldn't press Inman on the complete provenance of his knowledge, Armitage's possible motivations, the relationship between what Armitage did and what Rove/Libby/Cheney did, etc.

4) Related to (3), it is my understanding that what has been blogged here is pretty much common knowledge inside the Beltway. I am genuinely surprised that it hasn't appeared anywhere else in the blogoshere.

For those in the blogosohere wondering about motive, Tom Maguire mused about Armitage's possible motives back in November 2005.

UPDATE: Steve Clemons' latest post offers up yet another reason why I don't like posting on DC gossip -- because it's often wrong:

Bobby Ray Inman's claims are "BS", claimed one very prominent Washington insider after reading TWN's report on Inman's claim that Richard Armitage would be indicted in the Valerie Plame Wilson outing probe.

Another well-placed insider who has interacted directly with many of the key personalities involved in the investigation wrote this to me:

I'm sure Inman is wrong on Armitage. But I am also sure we'll hear more about Armitage's direct involvement. I am additionally sure we will hear about Armitage as a witness against Rove if he is indicted.
Another person whom I can't identify but has direct knowledge of the direction of Fitzgerald's investigation as it pertains to Armitage and Rove stated that what Inman claims "is not the case". This source offered further that one "would be on 100 percent solid ground" with the claim that Armitage would NOT be indicted.

I can't disclose this source, but I completely trust the veracity of this comment.

That said, I have learned from several other sources that Richard Armitage was neck deep in the Valerie Plame story. According to several insiders, as soon as Armitage realized mistakes he had made, he marched into Colin Powell and laid out "everything" in full detail.

As others have written and reported, Richard Armitage is a major part of the story and engaged in indiscreet discussions regarding Valerie Plame Wilson and her alleged role in the Joe Wilson trip to Niger.

However, unlike what Admiral Inman asserted, Richard Armitage is in no legal jeopardy -- none.

Two sources have reported that Richard Armitage has testified three times before the grand jury and has completely cooperated and has been, as one source reported, "a complete straight-shooter" and "honest about his role and mistakes".

Another person with deep knowledge about this investigation called to say that Fitzgerald seems to have abandoned any interest in securing indictments regarding the "outing" of Plame and has invested his efforts in challenging the "white collar cover-ups" involved. According to this source, the information provided by Richard Armitage is -- more than any other information -- what has put Karl Rove at major risk of indictment.

I felt that these other insider perspectives are important as they are so uniformly consistent that Inman's claims are wrong, that Armitage made mistakes and immediately owned up to them, that Armitage has been completely forthcoming in the investigation, and that Karl Rove remains a prime indictment target for Patrick Fitzgerald.

posted by Dan on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM


I'd just like to say that I also have important state secrets. I'm just saying so you don't ask.

posted by: on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

> I would describe Inman's knowledge of this
> as coming from sources who would be/would
> have been in a position to know the fact
> chain on these events.

Interesing, amusing, and disturbing all in one. Knowing how human beings and large organizations behave, I don't doubt that there are plenty of informal channels of communication in Washington DC. But at the same time, one has to wonder: do classification, compartmentalization, and need-to-know even apply above a certain level? Or are such things just for the "little people"?


posted by: Cranky Observer on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

No, I think this is more about Dan wanting us to know he is considered an "illuminati". Next he will tell us he is the inspiration behind the albino in The Da Vinci Code -- also full of illuminatis.

posted by: Racer X, Speed Racer's (unbeknownst to him) brother on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

Thanks very much - this is grist for the mill, indeed.

posted by: Tom Maguire on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

"I am genuinely surprised that it hasn't appeared anywhere else in the blogoshere."

But not surprised it hasn't appeared in the MSM. Are they in the Illuminati too?

posted by: PD Shaw on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

I think now we are getting to the point where a back storyline is being developed (possibly by several different institutions) on why and to some extent who did what.

Motivation (the story why WH burns CIA or why State burns CIA or why CIA drops ball on war, etc.) is subject to spin as is everything else in politics.

posted by: aiko on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

Dan, you're just importing the worst excesses of the media into the blogosphere with this nonsense. Don't act as a gatekeeper to some hidden fount of knowledge. Tell us what you know or don't, but don't play "I know something you don't know", it's not attractive or productive. If it's common knowledge inside the beltway, then whether you also heard it from Inman under disputably privileged circumstances is irrelevant. And I'll add that anything you blab to a table full of people you don't know is inherently fair game for posting.

posted by: scalefree on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

Leaving the question as to why Karl Rove would cover up a non-crime committed by Richard Armitage.

posted by: Norman Pfyster on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

So Fitzgerald has given up on the alleged criminal aspect of outing Plame, and is now focused on the white color aspect of what is now apparently a non-crime. Talk about a waste of government resources, and then some.

posted by: Steve on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

So Fitzgerald has given up on the alleged criminal aspect of outing Plame, and is now focused on the white color aspect of what is now apparently a non-crime. Talk about a waste of government resources, and then some.

posted by: Steve on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

Glad to see Fitzgerald protecting America by ferreting out the desperados who covered up a non-crime.

posted by: Alan on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

Obviously, Rove would not cover up a non-crime. Fitzgerald has the outing crime nailed and now he's going after the bigger fish, the ones who did the coverup.

Compare with Watergate. Nixon didn't do the Watergate breakin. He didn't even order it doen. He just covered it up.

posted by: J Thomas on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

What was your opinion of President Clinton's investigation by Ken Starr?

posted by: theCoach on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

I thought that it had to be established that a crime had been committed first before indictment? Apparently not.

Maybe old Fitzy figures that if he can't do anything to Libby except bankrupt him, the next step is to do the same to another Wh functionairly in the hope that this will have the goods on Rove.

Why can't we just cut to the chase. Fitzy should bribe Rove to plead guilty with half the cost of his office for another year. It's enough to set the man up for life, and the taxpayer would benefit this way....

posted by: Don S on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

Don S, are you arguing that perhaps no crime has been committed, and that the indictments are proceeding without a crime?

Where do you get that interpretation?

posted by: J Thomas on 05.18.06 at 04:18 PM [permalink]

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