By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Vanity Fair is reporting that former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee says it is reasonable to assume former State Department official Richard L. Armitage is likely the source who revealed CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward.
In an article to be published in the magazine today, Bradlee is quoted as saying: "That Armitage is the likely source is a fair assumption." Armitage was deputy secretary of state in President Bush's first term.
In an interview yesterday, Bradlee said he does know the identity of Woodward's source and does not recall making that precise statement to a Vanity Fair reporter. He said he has no interest in unmasking the official who first told Woodward about Plame in June 2003.
"I don't think I said it," Bradlee said. "I know who his source is, and I don't want to get into it. . . . I have not told a soul who it is."
The identity of Woodward's source emerged as one of the big mysteries of the CIA case after he disclosed last year that a government official with no ax to grind had told him about Plame, an undercover operative, a month before her name was revealed by columnist Robert D. Novak. Since then, guessing Woodward's source has been a Washington parlor game.
Plame is at the center of an investigation by a special prosecutor into whether White House officials knowingly disclosed her name to the media to discredit allegations made by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, that the administration twisted intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. The probe has resulted in charges of perjury, making false statements and obstructing justice against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff.
Beth Kseniak, spokeswoman for Vanity Fair, said the reporter who wrote the story, Marie Brenner, was traveling in India and was unavailable for comment.
Bradlee, currently Post vice president at large, said he learned the source's name from someone other than Woodward. Woodward said he did not reveal the source to his friend and former boss.
"He is not in the management loop on this," Woodward said. "Maybe he was alerted from somebody else, if he in fact did learn" the source's name.
Woodward and Bradlee refused to disclose the source's name. Armitage did not return phone calls requesting comment.
Bradlee's brief comments about the source are included in a lengthy article about the Plame case. Bradlee is the longtime Post editor who rose to prominence when his reporting team of Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate story. Woodward and Bradlee refused for many years to reveal the identity of Deep Throat, a key source.
Bradlee defended Woodward after the journalist disclosed in November that a senior Bush administration official had told him about Plame and her CIA ties a month before her identity was revealed.
At the time, Woodward was criticized by Leonard Downie Jr., The Post's executive editor, and others for not telling the newspaper about his knowledge of Plame until after Libby was indicted.
In the course of writing a book on Bush, Woodward said, he had discovered mention of Plame in his notes just as the grand jury in the leak case was expiring last October. Woodward contacted prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald and later testified under oath about his conversations with the source, whom he has refused to name publicly.
Woodward's testimony changed key elements in the chronology Fitzgerald laid out in his investigation and announced when indicting Libby. It made Woodward's source -- not Libby -- the first known government official to disclose Plame's CIA employment to a reporter. Woodward has said he does not recall ever discussing Plame with Libby.
It also apparently made Woodward the first reporter to learn about Plame from a government source. Libby's legal team has cited Woodward's testimony as evidence that there are holes in Fitzgerald's version of events and hinted it might call the reporter to testify at the trial.
The identity of Woodward's source is one of several mysteries that remain in the leak case. Lawyers involved in the case have suggested Woodward's source and Novak's source are the same person. Novak has refused to discuss the source for his column but suggested in a speech in December that he and Woodward shared the source. Novak and his lawyer declined to comment yesterday.
Fitzgerald has not concluded his investigation, but people involved in the case said he has not shown interest in Woodward or his source since Woodward testified last year.
Fitzgerald has not closed the investigation of whether White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove provided false statements about his role in the disclosure of Plame's identity, according to lawyers in the case.