Richard Armitage (naval officer)

Richard Lee Armitage (born April 26, 1945) is an American former naval officer who served three combat tours of duty in the Vietnam War as an advisor in contexts of riverine warfare. This experience and his acquired fluency in Vietnamese made him useful to the United States Foreign Service after the war. A Republican, he was appointed the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State at the State Department, serving from 2001 to 2005 under President George W. Bush.

Richard Armitage
Richard L. Armitage.jpeg
United States Deputy Secretary of State
In office
March 26, 2001 – February 23, 2005
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byStrobe Talbott
Succeeded byRobert Zoellick
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
In office
April 2, 1983 – June 5, 1989
Acting: April 2, 1983 – June 5, 1983
PresidentRonald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded byBing West
Succeeded byHarry Rowen
Personal details
Richard Lee Armitage

(1945-04-26) April 26, 1945 (age 74)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Laura Alice Samford
RelativesIain Armitage (grandson)
Alma materUnited States Naval Academy (BS)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Battles/warsVietnam War

Although Armitage was widely credited for a successful tenure as Deputy Secretary of State for Secretary Colin Powell, his tenure at State became overshadowed by allegations that he leaked classified information after Armitage acknowledged that he released information that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA, triggering the Plame affair.[1] His defense that it was inadvertent during an interrogational press interview was accepted.[2] After leaving the government service, Armitage went into the private sector. He serves on the board of directors for Caliburn International, a military contractor that oversees operations for Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children.[3][4]

Early life and military careerEdit

Armitage was born in Boston, the son of Ruth H. Armitage and Leo Holmes. He graduated from St. Pius X Catholic High School, in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1963. In 1967 he graduated from the United States Naval Academy.

He served on a destroyer stationed off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War before volunteering to serve what would eventually become three combat tours with the riverine/advisory forces for the Republic of Vietnam Navy.[5] According to Captain Kiem Do, a Republic of Vietnam Navy officer who served with him in Vietnam, Armitage "seemed drawn like a moth to flame to the hotspots of the naval war: bedding down on the ground with Vietnamese commandos, sharing their rations and hot sauce, telling jokes in flawless Vietnamese".[6] Instead of a Naval uniform, Armitage often dressed in native garb. He adopted a Vietnamese pseudonym, "Tran Phu", which loosely translated meant "rich Navy guy".[6]

Several associates who fought alongside Armitage and other politicians (including Ted Shackley)[7] have since claimed that Armitage was associated with the CIA's clandestine Phoenix Program.[7] Armitage has denied a role in Phoenix and has stated that at most, CIA officers would occasionally ask him for intelligence reports.[8]

In 1973, Armitage left active duty and joined the Defense Attaché Office, Saigon. Immediately prior to the fall of Saigon, he organized and led the removal of South Vietnamese naval assets and personnel from the country and out of the hands of the approaching North Vietnamese. Armitage told South Vietnamese naval officers to take their ships to a designated place in the ocean where they would be rescued by U.S. forces and their ships destroyed. When Armitage arrived at the designated location he found 30 South Vietnamese Navy ships and dozens of fishing boats and cargo ships with as many as 30,000 Vietnamese refugees.[9][10] With transportation options limited for removing the floating city, Armitage, aboard the destroyer escort USS Kirk, personally decided to lead the flotilla of ships over 1000 miles to shelter in Subic Bay, Philippines. This went against the wishes of both the Philippine and American governments. Nevertheless, Armitage personally arranged for food and water to be delivered by the U.S. Defense Department before negotiating with both governments for permission to dock in Subic Bay.[5][9]

Armitage is the recipient of several military decorations, including a Bronze Star with Combat V, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V and Navy Achievement Medal with Combat V.

Public service careerEdit

After the end of the Vietnam War Armitage moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense. In 1978, Armitage returned to the United States and started working as an aide to Republican Senator Bob Dole.[11]

In late 1980, Armitage became a foreign policy advisor to Republican President-elect Ronald Reagan. Following that role, he was made a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, a high-ranking post in the Pentagon. He served in this position from 1981 to 1983.

In June 1983, he was promoted to Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy where he represented the Department of Defense in developing political-military relationships and initiatives throughout the world. He helped to spearhead U.S. Pacific security policy including the U.S.-Japan and U.S.-China security relationships, managed all Defense security assistance programs, and provided oversight of policies related to the law of the sea, U.S. special operations, and counter-terrorism. Armitage earned the Secretary of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service and the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. He played a leading role in Middle East security policies.[citation needed]

Armitage left that post in 1989 to serve as a special negotiator for the President on military bases in the Philippines, and as a mediator on water issues in the Middle East. He was formally nominated for Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs by George H. W. Bush on February 27, 1989. Before the Senate could take up his nomination, he was nominated for Secretary of the Army on April 25, 1989, though the nomination was withdrawn on May 25 so Armitage could devote more time to his large family.[11]

In 1991, he was appointed a special emissary to King Hussein of Jordan. Following that, he was sent to Europe with the title of ambassador; his assignment was to direct American foreign aid to the countries that had been formed out of the fallen Soviet Union. He occupied that post until 1993, when he became the director of US data aggregation firm ChoicePoint.

Christic Institute and Khun Sa allegationsEdit

In 1986, Armitage was named in an affidavit filed in a civil lawsuit by the Christic Institute as part of a conspiracy responsible for the La Penca bombing, and a number of other covert operations.[12] The affidavit, by Christic's lead attorney Daniel Sheehan, alleged that Armitage was involved with heroin smuggling from southeast Asia to fund covert activities in South America. He and Ted Shackley were reported to be directly responsible for the Iran Contra Scandal.[13]

Similar charges were made in a 1987 letter from the Burmese warlord Khun Sa to the U.S. Justice Department. The letter, which was transmitted by James "Bo" Gritz, accused Armitage of organizing heroin smuggling from the Golden Triangle in the 1960s and 70s. Upon returning to the United States with this information, a key witness was held by the CIA in Oklahoma for a period of time.[14]

Armitage rebutted the charges from Sheehan and Khun Sa, observing that at dates he was said to be in Thailand, he was living in Washington D.C., working as an assistant to Senator Robert Dole.[13]

In 1988, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed the Christic suit, after finding it to be frivolous and ordered the Institute to pay $955,000 in attorneys fees and $79,500 in court costs.[12][15] The ruling was subsequently upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.[15]

Bush administrationEdit

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson meet in 2002

In 1998, Armitage signed a letter to President Bill Clinton urging Clinton to target the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power in Iraq. It stated that Saddam's massive violations of the cease-fire that had ended the First Gulf War has caused erosion of the Gulf War Coalition's containment policy. It also raised the possibility that Iraq, emboldened by Western inaction, might re-develop weapons of mass destruction.[citation needed]

During the 2000 Presidential election campaign, he served as a foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush as part of a group led by Condoleezza Rice that called itself The Vulcans.[16] The United States Senate confirmed him as Deputy Secretary of State on March 23, 2001; he was sworn in three days later. A close associate of Secretary of State Colin Powell, Armitage was regarded, along with Powell, as a moderate within the presidential administration of George W. Bush.

According to President Musharraf of Pakistan, shortly after 9/11, Armitage presented him with demands for assistance in the campaign against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban which were non-negotiable. Should Pakistan accept, it would be considered a United States ally. Should it decline, Pakistan would be considered an enemy. According to Musharraf, Armitage further averred that, should Pakistan decline, the United States would bomb it "back to the Stone Age". Armitage denies having used those words.

Armitage tendered his resignation on November 16, 2004 to accompany Powell, who announced his resignation as Secretary of State the day before. He left the post on February 22, 2005, when Robert Zoellick succeeded to the office.

Role in Plame affairEdit

"The Plame Affair" is a name assigned by the press to a journalistic and governmental uproar over the outing of Valerie Plame as a covert intelligence operative during the administration of President George W. Bush in 2003. An American syndicated columnist, Robert Novak, had learned of her employment by the CIA from Armitage, who was then working for the State Department, and Novak had publicly identified her as the source of a recommendation given to the President in the course of her duties. Plame had to resign from the CIA because her identity was no longer secret. A criminal investigation into the revelation produced no charges against Armitage but several charges against Scooter Libby, an assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney, for lying to the investigators about the matter. Libby was convicted but his jail sentence was ultimately commuted by Bush, and he was subsequently pardoned by President Donald Trump on April 13, 2018.[17]

Armitage with President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, August 6, 2003

Armitage's defense that he had inadvertently made an off-hand remark during a probing interview with Novak, coupled with his candor and cooperation, was accepted, although the decision not to prosecute was not made until 2006. Meanwhile, the long and slow investigation played out in the press as a scandal, "the Plame Affair" or "Plamegate".

On November 15, 2005, journalist Bob Woodward of The Washington Post revealed in an article that "a government official with no axe to grind" leaked to him the identity of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame in mid-June 2003. According to an April 2006 Vanity Fair article (published March 14, 2006), former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee said in an interview "that Armitage is the likely source is a fair assumption", though Bradlee later told the Post that he "[did] not recall making that precise statement" in the interview.[18] The following year, on March 2, 2006, bloggers discovered that "Richard Armitage" fit the spacing on a redacted court document, suggesting he was a source for the Plame leak.[19] In August 2006, the Associated Press published a story that revealed Armitage met with Bob Woodward in mid-June 2003. The information came from official State Department calendars provided to the Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.[20]

Robert Novak, in an August 27, 2006 appearance on Meet the Press, stated that although he still would not release the name of his source, he felt it was long overdue that the source reveal himself.[21] He had reason to think that the source might do that. Armitage had reportedly been a cooperative and key witness in the investigation.[22] According to The Washington Note, Armitage had testified before the grand jury three times.[23]

Press reports continued to mount and pressure to build. On August 29, 2006, Neil A. Lewis of The New York Times reported that Armitage was the "initial and primary source" for columnist Robert Novak's July 14, 2003 article, which named Plame as a CIA "operative" and which triggered the CIA leak investigation.[24] On August 30, 2006, CNN reported that Armitage had been confirmed "by sources" as leaking Wilson's CIA role in a "casual conversation" with Robert Novak.[25] The New York Times, quoting "people familiar with his actions", reported that Armitage was unaware of Wilson's undercover status when he spoke to Novak.[26] In the September 4, 2006 issue of Newsweek magazine, in an article titled "The Man Who Said Too Much", journalist Michael Isikoff, quoting a source "directly familiar with the conversation who asked not to be identified because of legal sensitivities", reported that Armitage was the "primary" source for Novak's piece outing Plame. Armitage allegedly mentioned Wilson's CIA role to Novak in a July 8, 2003 interview after learning about her status from a State Department memo which made no reference to her undercover status.[27] Isikoff also reported that Armitage had also told Bob Woodward of Plame's identity in June 2003, and that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald investigated Armitage's role "aggressively", but did not charge Armitage with a crime because he "found no evidence that Armitage knew of Plame's covert CIA status when he talked to Novak and Woodward".

On September 7, 2006, Armitage admitted to being the source in the CIA leak. Armitage claims that Fitzgerald had originally asked him not to discuss publicly his role in the matter, but that on September 5 Armitage asked Fitzgerald if he could reveal his role to the public, and Fitzgerald consented.[1] The Times claims that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales was informed that Armitage was involved on October 2, 2003, but asked not to be told details. Fitzgerald began his grand jury investigation three months later knowing Armitage was a leaker (as did Attorney General John Ashcroft before turning over the investigation).

On March 6, 2007, a jury convicted Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Chief of Staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, of "obstruction of justice, giving false statements to the FBI and perjuring himself, charges embodied in four of the five counts of the indictment".[28] On July 2, 2007, President Bush issued a grant of executive clemency that commuted the prison term imposed on Lewis Libby.[29] In a review of Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, which hit bookstores in early September 2006, Novak wrote: "I don't know precisely how Isikoff flushed out Armitage [as Novak's original source], but Hubris clearly points to two sources: Washington lobbyist Kenneth Duberstein, Armitage's political adviser, and William Taft IV, who was the State Department legal adviser when Armitage was deputy secretary".[30]

Pakistan and the fight against terrorismEdit

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in an interview with CBS News 60 Minutes on September 21, 2006,[31] alleged that Armitage called an Inter-Services Intelligence general immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks and threatened to "bomb the country [Pakistan] back to the stone age" unless they supported the U.S.-led fight against Islamic terrorism. Presently, Musharraf has refused to provide details, commenting that he is unable to provide details due to restrictions by the publisher (Simon & Schuster) of his book In the Line of Fire: A Memoir.[citation needed] President Bush, on the other hand, has mentioned that he only became aware of these comments as late as September 2006, when he read them in the newspapers. Armitage confirmed he had held a conversation with the Pakistani general to whom Musharraf had sourced the comments, but stated he had not used a threat of military action couched in such terms, as he was not authorized to do so.[32]

Life after public serviceEdit

There was some media speculation that President Bush would appoint him to a key security position such as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Director of National Intelligence or Defense Secretary. Notwithstanding this, Armitage has not re-entered public service.

In October 2006, Armitage lobbied—on behalf of the L-3 Communications Corporation, a company providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance products—some key people in Taiwanese political circles regarding the possible sale of P-3C marine patrol aircraft to the ROC military. Those who received his personal letter included Premier Su Tseng-chang, President of the Legislative Yuan Wang Jin-pyng, and opposition People First Party leader James Soong.

Armitage stated in the letter that he wished the Taiwan government would reconsider the purchase from Lockheed Martin, the dealer the United States government had designated. Instead, he hoped that the right to negotiate the purchase should be made through an open and fair bidding process.[33] The letter was made public by PFP Legislators on October 24, 2006, in a Legislative Yuan session discussing the military purchases.[34]

Since January 1, 2010, Armitage has been a Member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of the American-Turkish Council, a Washington-based association dedicated to the promotion of business, military and foreign policy relationship between Turkey and the United States.[35]

Armitage has retired from a series of Boards, such as America Abroad Media advisory board, which he left in 2014.[36] and a 12-year Board Membership at ConocoPhillips, which he terminated in May 2018.

On June 16, 2016, Armitage stated that he would vote for Hillary Clinton for President in the 2016 election if Donald Trump became the Republican nominee.[37] He endorsed Hillary Clinton in the run-up for the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[38]

Honors and awardsEdit

On March 22, 2013, Armitage was awarded the United States Naval Academy Distinguished Alumni Award. According to the Naval Academy website:

  • Distinguished Graduates are the embodiment of what we strive to achieve in the U.S. Naval Academy's mission: "To develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government." As an institution, we honor our Distinguished Graduates because of their:
    • Demonstrated and unselfish commitment to a lifetime of service to our nation
    • Personal character which epitomizes the traits we expect in our officer corps
    • Significant contributions as Navy and Marine Corps officers, or as leaders in industry or government
  • Each of them serves as a beacon, lighting the way for our midshipmen as they begin to chart their naval careers. They also serve by example to motivate those alumni serving in the Fleet and Fleet Marine Corps. Our midshipmen can take away much from learning about our distinguished graduates. All the Distinguished Graduates honored – lived the traits of lifetime commitment to service, personal character and distinguished contributions to our nation.

Personal lifeEdit

Armitage and his wife Laura have eight children. He is fluent in Vietnamese and well versed in many other languages. He is an avid powerlifter and loves to play basketball.[39] He was also a football linebacker at the United States Naval Academy and a teammate of Roger Staubach. He graduated in 1965. His grandson is actor Iain Armitage, from his daughter Lee.


  1. ^ a b Smith, R. Jeffrey (September 8, 2006). "Armitage Says He Was Source of CIA Leak". The Washington Post. p. A03. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  2. ^ Matt Apuzzo (September 8, 2006). "Armitage Says He Was Source on Plame". ABC News. Associated Press.
  3. ^ "DC Capital Fact Sheet" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-06-26.
  4. ^ "John Kelly joins board of company operating largest shelter for unaccompanied migrant children". Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  5. ^ a b ""Deputy Secretary of State Richard Lee Armitage" (bio)". Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  6. ^ a b Do Kiem and Julie Kane, Counterpart: A South Vietnamese Naval Officer's War, ISBN 1-55750-181-5, 1998, p. 164
  7. ^ a b Mann, James 2004. Rise of the Vulcans Viking Press ISBN 0-670-03299-9, page 42
  8. ^ James Mann, 2004. Rise of the Vulcans Viking Press ISBN 0-670-03299-9; p. 43
  9. ^ a b Mann, James 2004. Rise of the Vulcans Viking Press ISBN 0-670-03299-9. p. 52.
  10. ^ Shapiro, Joseph; Bartlett, Sandra (September 1, 2010). "At War's End, U.S. Ship Rescued South Vietnam's Navy". All Things Considered. NPR.
  11. ^ a b "Bush withdraws nomination of Army secretary".
  12. ^ a b "Suit Alleging Plot by Contras, CIA Dismissed : Arms-Drug Smuggling, Conspiracy Charges Unproven, Judge Says". Los Angeles Times. AP. June 24, 1988. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Church, George J.; Beaty, Jonathan; van Voorst, Bruce (1987-05-04). "Perot's Private Probes A billionaire pursues his own Iran and MIA trail". Time. 129 (18): 18. ISSN 0040-781X.
  14. ^ House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hearings of July 30 and July 15, 1987
  15. ^ a b Henderson, Greg (January 13, 1992). "Court lets stand $1 million award against Christic Institute". UPI. UPI. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  16. ^ Richard N. Haass, War of Necessity, War of Choice Simon & Schuster, New York, 2009, p. 170
  17. ^ Karl de Vries (April 13, 2018). "Trump pardons ex-Cheney aide Scooter Libby". Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  18. ^ VandeHei, Jim (March 14, 2006). "Magazine: Bradlee Knows Woodward's Source on Plame". The Washington Post. p. A02. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  19. ^ emptywheel (March 2, 2006). "About the Journalists". The Next Hurrah. TypePad. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  20. ^ "Calendars mark Armitage-Woodward meeting". NBC News. August 22, 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  21. ^ "Transcript for August 27". Meet the Press. NBC News. August 27, 2006. p. 7. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  22. ^ Bazinet, Kenneth & Meek, James Gordon (May 20, 2006). "Ex-deputy secretary of state new figure in CIA leak probe". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  23. ^ Clemons, Steve (May 19, 2006). "Insiders: Richard Armitage Will NOT Be Indicted". The Washington Note. Archived from the original on February 10, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  24. ^ Lewis, Neil A. (August 30, 2006). "First Source of C.I.A. Leak Admits Role, Lawyer Says". The New York Times. Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  25. ^ King, John & Todd, Brian (August 30, 2006). "Sources: State Department official source of Plame leak". Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  26. ^ Johnston, David (September 2, 2006). "Leak Revelation Leaves Questions". The New York Times (final). p. A-1. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  27. ^ Isikoff, Michael (September 4, 2006). "The Man Who Said Too Much". Newsweek National News. Archived from the original on 2006-11-13. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  28. ^ Stout, David and Lewis, Neil A. (March 5, 2007). "Libby Guilty of Lying in C.I.A. Leak Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-03-06.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  29. ^ Bush, George (July 2, 2007). "Grant of Executive Clemency". Office of the Press Secretary. Retrieved 2007-07-02.
  30. ^ Novak, Robert D. (October 16, 2006). "Who Said What When: The rise and fall of the Valerie Plame 'scandal'". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  31. ^ "Musharraf: In the Line of Fire".
  32. ^ "Richard Armitage interview" (ASX (video)). 2006-09-22. Retrieved 2007-01-27.[dead link]
  33. ^ 軍購/軍火商搶標? 橘營指內幕重重 要蘇揆說清楚 (in Chinese). 2006-10-24. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  34. ^ 軍購案遭擋 橘委批政府與美軍火商同陣線 (in Chinese). 2006-10-24. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
  35. ^[permanent dead link]
  36. ^
  37. ^ Crowley, Michael (June 16, 2016). "Exclusive: Armitage to back Clinton over Trump". Politico. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  38. ^ Blake, A. 78 Republican politicians, donors and officials who are supporting Hillary Clinton.. The Washington Post. December 7, 2016.
  39. ^ Source: Bob Woodward book.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Bing West
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
Succeeded by
Harry Rowen
Preceded by
Strobe Talbott
United States Deputy Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Robert Zoellick