Robert Novak is setting the record straight on the Armitage leak of Valerie Plame’s identity. It’s not good for the rabid Left that was waiting for someone–anyone–to be frog-marched.

First, Armitage did not, as he now indicates, merely pass on something he had heard and that he ”thought” might be so. Rather, he identified to me the CIA division where Mrs. Wilson worked, and said flatly that she recommended the mission to Niger by her husband, former Amb. Joseph Wilson.

Second, Armitage did not slip me this information as idle chitchat, as he now suggests. He made clear he considered it especially suited for my column.

An accurate depiction of what Armitage actually said deepens the irony of him being my source. He was a foremost internal skeptic of the administration’s war policy, and I long had opposed military intervention in Iraq. Zealous foes of George W. Bush transformed me improbably into the president’s lapdog. But they cannot fit Armitage into the left-wing fantasy of a well-crafted White House conspiracy to destroy Joe and Valerie Wilson. The news that he and not Karl Rove was the leaker was devastating news for the left.

Interestingly, while the Left was happy to assume that the leak was part of a Republican conspiracy, Novak’s information paints a very different picture, one in which one might be able to make out a Democratic rumor program to discredit White House staff.

Armitage’s silence the next 2 years caused intense pain for his colleagues in government and enabled partisan Democrats in Congress to falsely accuse Rove of being my primary source. When Armitage now says he was mute because of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s request, that does not explain his silence three months between his claimed first realization that he was the source and Fitzgerald’s appointment on Dec. 30. Armitage’s tardy self-disclosure is tainted because it is deceptive.

I’m not saying there was such a conspiracy of whispers. What I am saying is that it’s deliciously ironic that the result could be construed as coming from one.

If you really want the deep details, A.J. connects all the dots.

To add to the farce, now Valerie Plame is suing Armitage. But in order to do that, she has to really turn her allegations in knots.

One-time covert CIA officer Valerie Plame on Wednesday sued the former No. 2 official at the State Department for violating her privacy rights.

The suit does not accuse Richard Armitage, who was deputy secretary of state in the Bush administration, of participating in an administration conspiracy to blow her cover.

By adding Armitage’s name to the suit, Plame’s lawyers set up a different scenario. They contend a White House conspiracy existed, but that Armitage’s leak was independent of it.

Armitage is accused of violating Plame’s privacy rights. He is not accused of violating the Wilsons’ constitutional rights to equal protection and freedom of speech _ allegations that remain against the White House officials.

So Armitage leaked the name, but didn’t violate any equal protection or free speech laws, while the White House did the same thing and did violate those laws. ‘Cept that the White House “leaked” something to Novak that he already knew. And this all happened with such amazing coincidental timing.

Joe Wilson is really desperate to see frog-marching. Is this an amphibian thing?

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