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Richard Armitage | American Politician, Age, Biography, Early Life, Career, Facts


IntroPolitician of the USA
A.K.A.Richard Lee Armitage
FromUnited States of America
Birth26 April 1945, Boston
Age75 years


Richard Lee Armitage (born April 26, 1945) is an American former naval officer and a Republican politician who was appointed the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State at the State Department, serving from 2001 to 2005 under George W. Bush. He has acknowledged that he publicly released the information that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA, triggering the Plame affair, although he has said it was inadvertent.


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 graduated from the United States Naval Academy with the rank of ensign.

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. 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”. Instead of a uniform, Armitage often dressed in native garb. He adopted a Vietnamese pseudonym, “Tran Phu”, based on an arbitrary, but personally relevant translation of his real name.

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

In 1973, Armitage left active duty and joined the office of the U.S. Defense Attache in 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.

With transportation options limited for removing the floating city, Armitage, aboard the destroyer escort USS Kirk, personally decided that humanity required him to lead the flotilla of ships over 1000 miles to shelter in Subic Bay, Philippines, in 1975. 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.


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. He was almost immediately sent to serve in Tehran, Iran, until November 1976. Following that posting, he moved to Bangkok and operated an import/export business in the private sector for the next two years. Burmese warlord Khun Sa later identified Armitage as one of the key responsibles for the CIA’s alleged heroin trafficking from the Golden Triangle during that time (alongside CIA officers Jerry Daniels and Theodore Shackley). In 1978, Armitage returned to the United States and started working as an aide to Republican Senator Bob Dole.

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.

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 United States Secretary of the Army on April 25, 1989, though this nomination was withdrawn on May 25 so Armitage could devote more time to his large family. He was also under FBI investigation at the time.

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 U.S. 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 a U.S. data aggregation company ChoicePoint.


In 1998, Armitage signed a letter to President Bill Clinton. The letter urged 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.

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. 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, the day after Powell announced his resignation as Secretary of State. He left the post on February 22, 2005, when Robert Zoellick succeeded to the office.


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. 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. 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.

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. Armitage has also reportedly been a cooperative and key witness in the investigation. According to The Washington Note, Armitage has testified before the grand jury three times.

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 Valerie Plame as a CIA “operative” and which triggered the CIA leak investigation.

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. 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.

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 Robert 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. 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.

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. Patrick 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”.

On July 2, 2007, President Bush issued a Grant of Executive Clemency that commuted the prison terms imposed on Lewis Libby.

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”.


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in an interview with CBS News 60 Minutes on September 21, 2006, 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. 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.


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. Armitage has not re-entered public service. On May 10, 2006, he was elected to the board of directors of the ConocoPhillips oil company.

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. The letter was made public by PFP Legislators on October 24, 2006, in a Legislative Yuan session discussing the military purchases.

Since January 1, 2010, Armitage has been a Member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of the American-Turkish Council, a Washington-based, corporate membership NGO dedicated to the promotion of a strong and peaceful business, military and foreign policy relationship between Turkey and the United States. He also sits on the America Abroad Media advisory board.

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.


On December 15, 2005, Armitage was awarded a KCMG and became a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (honorary).

On July 1, 2010, Armitage was appointed an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia, Australia’s “for eminent service to strengthening the Australia-United States bilateral relationship”. He was invested with the award at a ceremony at the Australian Ambassador’s residence on October 13, 2010.

On June 6, 2011, Her Majesty the Queen appointed Armitage an Honorary Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. He was appointed in recognition of his services to New Zealand–U.S. relations.

Armitage was awarded the Department of State Distinguished Service Award. He has been awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service four times, the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Award for Outstanding Public Service, the Presidential Citizens Medal, presented by the President to citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service, and the Department of State Distinguished Honor Award.

The President of Romania conferred upon Armitage with Romania’s highest civil order, The Order of the Star of Romania with the rank of Commander “for the constant support towards the development and consolidation of bilateral relations between the United States of America and Romania, for the support of our country’s efforts to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization”.

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.

On November 5, 2015, the Government of Japan awarded Armitage the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun for his contributions to promoting friendly relations and mutual understanding between Japan and the United States.


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. He was also a football linebacker at the United States Naval Academy and a teammate of Roger Staubach.

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