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Armitage admits leaking Plame's identity

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage acknowledged Thursday that he was the source who first revealed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to syndicated columnist Robert Novak back in 2003, touching off a federal investigation.

Armitage told the CBS Evening News that he did so inadvertently.

"I feel terrible," Armitage said. "Every day, I think, I let down the president. I let down the secretary of state. I let down my department, my family, and I also let down Mr. and Mrs. Wilson."

In a column published on July 14, 2003, Novak, citing two senior administration officials, noted that Plame was a CIA operative. The column was primarily about Plame's husband, Joe Wilson, a former career diplomat and critic of the intelligence underlying the invasion of Iraq.

Novak has never revealed the original source of the information about Plame. However, he has confirmed that President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, confirmed the information and was the second source cited in the column.

Novak has said he would not reveal the identity of the original source unless the source came forward. However, he said Fitzgerald learned who the source was independently.

Last month, sources told CNN that Armitage had revealed Plame's role at the CIA in a casual conversation with Novak.

Armitage was not indicted by the federal grand jury that investigated the disclosure of Plame's name to Novak and other journalists. He told CBS that the special counsel investigating the leak, Patrick Fitzgerald, "asked me not to discuss this, and I honored his request."

After Novak's column ran, Wilson accused Bush administration officials of leaking his wife's name in retaliation for his criticisms about intelligence used to buttress the case for invading Iraq. (Full story)

Because deliberately revealing the identity of a CIA operative can be a crime, Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, was appointed in September 2003 as a special counsel to investigate whether any laws were broken.

While no one has been indicted for actually leaking Plame's identity, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has been charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators for allegedly giving false information about his discussions with journalists about Plame.

Libby has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

Armitage, 65, was No. 2 at the State Department under former Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2001 to 2005. He left his post after Powell resigned at the beginning of Bush's second term.

CNN's John King and Brian Todd contributed to this report.

Armitage says his leak of Valerie Plame's identity was inadvertent.



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