A TIDBIT FROM THE VALERIE PLAME ARCHIVES….Is the Valerie Plame scandal dead now that Richard Armitage has fessed up to being Robert Novak’s source? I know one way to find out.

Those of you who haven’t followed Plamegate from the very beginning may not remember this, but although David Corn’s column on July 16, 2003, was the first to break the news of Plame’s outing, it wasn’t until later that the Plame affair turned into a full-fledged firestorm. It was a story in the Washington Post two month’s after Corn’s column that did it. Here’s what it said:

A senior administration official said two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and revealed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife….”Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge,” the senior official said of the alleged leak.

That changed the story completely: instead of one guy talking to one reporter, it was multiple White House officials methodically calling their sources and hoping someone would bite on a juicy morsel designed solely for political revenge. That was a story, and everyone went nuts.

But was it true? Well, three years later we know that Karl Rove spoke to at least two reporters about Plame (Novak and Matt Cooper). We know that Scooter Libby spoke to Judith Miller about Plame. We know that someone else provided the actual name “Plame” to Miller. We know that at least half a dozen reporters were told about the Plame story by one official or another (Novak, Cooper, Miller, Bob Woodward, Walter Pincus, and, perhaps, Knut Royce). We know that Scooter Libby lied repeatedly about his actions to both investigators and a grand jury, something he’d be unlikely to do unless the truth were more damaging than a possible perjury trial.

Circumstantially, then, there’s a fair amount of evidence that the Post story was correct. It wasn’t just Armitage; there really was a deliberate, systematic plan to out Plame, and it came straight from the White House.

But that’s hardly bulletproof confirmation of the Post’s story, and it’s impossible to find out more because we still don’t know who their “senior administration official” was. Why? Because the journalistic code of omerta prevents Mike Allen and Dana Priest from telling us. It prevents us from knowing whether the person who set off the Plame firestorm knew what he was talking about or was just shooting from the hip. It prevents us from ever knowing what really happened.

Too bad, huh?