Rove, Powell dissect CIA leak
ASPEN ” Former Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested Sunday at an Aspen Ideas Festival question-and-answer session with Karl Rove that the CIA leak investigation carried on too long, and the FBI knew who leaked the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson from the very beginning.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Powell noted, told him the same day Robert Novak’s October 2003 column suggested who the source of the leak might be. That day, Armitage contacted Powell, saying, “It’s me.”
Powell said his staff then contacted the FBI to discuss Armitage’s role. He also implied that other White House officials should have been forthcoming as well.
Powell’s comments came on the heels of President Bush’s July 2 decision to spare former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby of a 30-month prison sentence.
Libby was convicted in March for obstruction of justice, false statements and perjury for revealing information about Plame’s CIA role to reporters Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine.
Last September, Armitage, saying he did not realize that Plame’s role with the CIA was covert, said he leaked her identity to Novak, as well as The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward.
“The FBI knew on day one of Mr. Armitage’s involvement, yet for two months after that the FBI kept investigating,” Powell said. “They kept investigating to see who else might be involved and when they finished their investigation ” they couldn’t finish it.
Therefore, a special counsel was brought in, Mr. Patrick Fitzgerald, who spent another two years.
“And if everybody who had any contact with a reporter during that period had done what Armitage had done, I think this would have ended early on and not dragged out the way it has been.”
Rove, originally believed by many to be the key leaker, responded that White House officials did cooperate from the beginning. When interviewer Walter Isaacson, chief executive of The Aspen Institute, asked whether Vice President Dick Cheney did, Rove did not directly answer the host’s question.
“A lot of people visited with the FBI, including me, before Oct. 2 ,” said Rove, President Bush’s top strategist.
Rove and Powell agree Armitage committed no crime.
Said Rove: “Remember, the underlying offense of Armitage talking to Novak was no violation. There was no indictment.” Libby Jr., however, “got in trouble for an entirely different set of circumstances,” Powell said.
Rove, meanwhile, defended the White House’s decision making under President Bush, from its decision to invade Iraq to questions regarding whether it is being aggressive enough in its pursuit of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
“I make no apologies” for going to Iraq,” Rove said. “It was the right thing to do and the world is better with him [Saddam Hussein] gone. We all thought he had weapons of mass destruction, the whole world thought he did.”
Rove felt so at home last year at the Aspen Ideas Festival that he decided to come back this weekend.
President Bush’s top aide told a packed crowd at the Greenwald Pavilion on Sunday that a day earlier, when he made a stop at the Nordic Inn in Twin Lakes to grab a cup of decaffeinated coffee, he wasn’t exactly given the red-carpet treatment.
“There’s a guy that said, ‘I’d like to hit that son of a bitch.'”
Rove then deadpanned: “I knew I was getting close to Aspen.”
If that wasn’t enough, on Saturday night Rove, after checking into an Aspen hotel, had another encounter with a not-so admirer.
“There’s a guy in a Land Rover, very expensive, and he’s got a car full of people, and takes one look at me, a scowl on his face, and says, ‘Go home.’ And as he goes off, I say, ‘I am home.'”
Indeed, Rove was born in Denver on Christmas Day, 1950. His father was a geologist at the Colorado School of Mines, and Rove said he bounced around some Denver suburbs before moving to Nevada at 10.
Rove, making his second appearance at the Ideas Festival, seemed to go with the flow of the left-leaning crowd. After the interview, an observer who attended Rove’s appearance last year said he took blow by blow from the audience, but stayed so composed he won over a few in the crowd.