Neither of us took notes, and nobody else was present. But I recalled our conversation that week in writing a column, while Armitage reconstructed it months later for federal prosecutors. He had told me unequivocally that Mrs. Wilson worked in the CIA's Counter-Proliferation Division and that she had suggested her husband's mission. As for his current implications that he never expected this to be published, he noted that the story of Mrs. Wilson's role fit the style of the old Evans-Novak column -- implying to me it continued reporting Washington inside information.
Mrs. Wilson's name appeared in my column July 14, 2003, but it was not until Oct. 1 that I heard about it from Armitage. Washington lobbyist Kenneth Duberstein, Armitage's close friend and political adviser, called me to say the deputy secretary feared he had "inadvertently" (the word Armitage used in last week's interviews) disclosed Mrs. Wilson's identity to me in July and was considering resignation. (Duberstein's phone call was disclosed in the Isikoff-Corn book, which used Duberstein as a source. They reported Duberstein was responsible for arranging my unexpected interview with Armitage.)
Duberstein told me Armitage wanted to know whether he was my source. I did not reply because I was sure that Armitage knew he was the source. I believed he contacted me Oct. 1 because of news the weekend of Sept. 27-28 that the Justice Department was investigating the leak. I cannot credit Armitage's current claim that he realized he was the source only when my Oct. 1 column revealed that the official who gave me the information was "no partisan gunslinger."
Armitage's silence the next two and one-half 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 silent 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.