On the July 8 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, National Public Radio national correspondent Mara Liasson stated that “to the majority of Americans” the CIA leak investigation is “confusing” and then repeated the claim that deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was “the real leaker” of former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson's identity. However, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, while Armitage leaked Plame's identity to syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who later revealed that information in a column, according to evidence and testimony at former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby's trial, Libby was a source of the information about Plame's CIA employment for at least two other journalists -- The New York Times' Judith Miller and Time magazine's Matthew Cooper.
As journalist Murray Waas noted in his book The United States v. I. Lewis Libby (Union Square Press, June 2007), during Libby's trial on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, and false statements, Miller testified on January 30 that Libby had disclosed Plame's CIA employment to her at a July 8, 2003, breakfast meeting at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., well before Novak publicly revealed it in his July 14, 2003, column. Cooper, in his first-person account of his testimony before the grand jury in the leak investigation, identified White House senior adviser Karl Rove as his original source for Plame's identity and Libby as his corroborating source. As Media Matters has noted, there is no requirement that the identity of a covert agent actually have been published for there to have been an illegal leak under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
Liasson described Armitage as “the real leaker” while arguing that President Bush's commutation of Libby's 30-month prison sentence -- and the ensuing controversy -- were “pure base politics.” She said: “I think for the president, it was an important thing to do for his base. ... [F]or the Democrats, this is something that fierce partisans care about.”
Additionally, earlier on the program, guest host and Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume did not challenge Rep. Peter Hoekstra's (R-MI) false claim that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald had “found out relatively early in the process that there probably was not an underlying crime,” because he had learned that Plame “was not a covert agent.” In fact, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, in a May 25 sentencing memorandum, Fitzgerald wrote that "[a]t the time of the leaks, Ms. Wilson in fact qualified as a 'covert agent' within the meaning of the IIPA." To support this claim, Fitzgerald included an "unclassified summary" of Plame's employment at the CIA -- which had been given to Libby's defense team in June 2006 -- stating that the CIA “declassified and now publicly acknowledges the previously classified fact that Ms. Wilson was a CIA employee from 1 January 2002 forward and the previously classified fact that she was a covert CIA employee during this period.” The “unclassified summary” established that she had headed a counterproliferation operation focused on Iraq and had traveled overseas in an undercover capacity in the five years prior to the disclosure of her identity.
From the July 8 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
HUME: Let me turn to the issue, or something related to the issue we talked about in the first segment, and that is this CIA leak investigation, which ended up prosecuting no one for the leak itself. What is your take on all of that? What is your view of how that came out? Do you think that investigation was properly handled, that it went in the wrong directions, in the right direction? What's your view of it?
HOEKSTRA: I think you can make a very compelling case that it went in the wrong direction. You know, Fitzgerald found out relatively early in the process that there probably was not an underlying crime, you know, that what they were -- that revealing of this name was not a covert agent and -- but pursued the investigation anyway.
HUME: The issue has shown some legs. It was a slow week in Washington, with the holiday and all. But we were still talking about it on this program, and I'm sure on others today. Democrats jumping all over it, believing it's a winning issue. Mara, is this a winning issue for Democrats?
LIASSON: I think for the very short term it's a winning issue. I think this is fleeting; I think it did fill a vacuum and a void. But I think, over time, it's not going to be some kind of major issue. I think that it's pure base politics. I think for the president, it was an important thing to do for his base. He has very low approval ratings; I think it would have hurt him if he didn't. I don't know how much lower he can go. But I think that that's one of the political benefits he got. I think for the Democrats, this is something that fierce partisans care about. I think to the majority of Americans, it's confusing, I mean what exactly happened, and the fact that the real leaker, Richard Armitage, was never prosecuted. It's very, very complicated. But I think for the moment, good politics for the Democrats, good base politics for the Democrats. Over time, I think this is going to just disappear.