WASHINGTON – The No. 2 State Department official met with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in mid-June 2003, the same time the reporter has testified that an administration official talked to him about CIA employee Valerie Plame.
Official State Department calendars, provided to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, show then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage held a one-hour meeting marked "private appointment" with Woodward on June 13, 2003.
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has investigated whether Bush administration officials intentionally revealed Plame's identity as a one-time CIA covert operative to punish her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, for criticizing the administration's march to war with Iraq.
When contacted at home Monday night, Woodward declined to discuss his meeting with Armitage or the identity of his source in the CIA leak case. Instead, he referred to his statement last year that he had a "casual and offhand" discussion about Plame with an unidentified administration official in mid-June 2003.
A person familiar with the information prosecutors have gathered, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because the material remains sealed, said Woodward's meeting with the confidential source was June 13, 2003.
The calendar released to the AP is the first confirmation that Woodward and Armitage met during the key time in the CIA leak case that was the focus of Fitzgerald's probe.
The identity of Woodward's source remains one of the big mysteries in the case because the Post reporter is the first member of the news media known to have discussed Plame's CIA employment with an administration official.
Woodward's former Post editor, Ben Bradlee, has speculated publicly that Armitage was the reporter's "likely source."
And defense attorneys for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the lone administration official charged in the CIA leak case, also have suggested that Armitage could have been Woodward's source when they unsuccessfully tried to persuade a court to order the release of State Department documents.
Fitzgerald's office declined to comment Monday. Reached at his home in Virginia, Armitage said he could not discuss his cooperation with Fitzgerald's office, the meeting with Woodward or any details of the case.
Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, faces trial in January on charges that he lied to authorities about conversations he had with reporters about Plame.
Libby's lawyer, William Jeffress, said Monday that Armitage's calendar only bolsters the defense's argument that information about the State Department official's role in the CIA leak affair should be released.
"I would hope that the facts on that would come out," Jeffress said. "We have asked for information as to Woodward's source in discovery, but that has been denied."
Woodward's boss, Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., said Monday, "We are not going to disclose the identity of a confidential source."
Woodward has said he received a written release from his confidentiality obligation to the source and was even asked by his source to tell prosecutors about their conversation. But he has refused to identify the person publicly.
Woodward has said Plame came up incidentally during an interview he was conducting for a book he wrote on the Iraq war. He said the source told him that Plame was a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and no evidence has emerged in public that Woodward's source actually knew she had been a covert agent. Fitzgerald has signaled there are no plans — beyond the Libby indictment — to prosecute any other officials for releasing Plame's identity.
Armitage's calendar also shows that a week before Woodward's meeting with Armitage, the deputy secretary of state met for 15 minutes with Libby.
That meeting occurred as State officials were about to prepare a report outlining how Plame's husband was sent to Niger before the Iraq war to check unverified intelligence that Iraq was seeking nuclear materials from Africa.
Wilson reported back to the Bush administration that he was unable to verify the claim, but the administration continued to use the information to bolster its argument for war. Wilson has cited the decision to rely on the bad intelligence in his criticisms of the administration.
Two people familiar with the meeting, however, said the Libby-Armitage meeting dealt with issues involving Pakistan and said the subject of the CIA leak case wasn't raised. Both spoke only on condition of anonymity because some information about the meeting remains classified.