Geoffrey Kemp was once Reagan's assistant for national security affairs and a National Security Council employee. Turns out he was also the FBI and State Department's prime suspect for leaking classified material to newspaper duo Robert Novak and Rowland Evans.
In May of this year, Washington Post reporter Joe Stephens reported that the FBI launched three separate espionage probes to try and identify Novak and Evans' sources for classified information published in their syndicated newspaper column in the 1980s.
Stephens obtained the information from a 64-page collection of of documents released by the FBI after responding to a Freedom of Information Act request it received following Novak's death last year. (Evans died in 2001).
Those documents revealed that one of the FBI's investigations was focused on a May 1983 article that described a telegram sent by then-U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz to Moshe Arens, who was Israel's defense minister at the time. The message, which the State Department considered classified, supposedly hinted at a deal that would trade the withdrawal of Israeli troops in Lebanon for American support on a new Israeli jet fighter.
Shortly after Novak and Evans published excerpts from the telegram, agents from the State Department immediately wrote to the FBI, requesting the Bureau launch an investigation and interview its own prime suspect: a National Security Council staffer who was "known to have weekly meetings with Rowland Evans."
Last week, Gawker obtained additional documents from the State Department responding to a similar request we submitted to the FBI last year. These papers, which included the State Department's letter requesting the FBI's help, identified the NSC suspect who has never been publicly mentioned until now: Geoffrey Kemp.
Kemp's name had previously been unpublished because it was redacted from the FBI file. While the Post wrote that it was "removed from the file before it was released to the Post," our review found a lone, intact reference to Kemp's last name that the FBI—and the Post, apparently—missed.
So what happened to Kemp in the end? According to the files, FBI officials instructed agents to inspect phone records and appointment calendars as well as conduct polygraph tests on NSC employees who had access to the classified telegram. The reports show agents interviewed Kemp and he admitted to meeting frequently with Evans, but denied any knowledge of the leak. He also consented to a polygraph and permitted agents to examine his calendar, although nothing in the files suggest agents ever actually conducted the lie detector test. And despite whatever suspicions the State Department had, the FBI closed its investigation a year later after "no logical suspect(s) had been developed."
At the time of the investigation, Kemp worked as the NSC's senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs. The FBI inquiry didn't damage his career prospects. In 1983, he was promoted to serve as a Reagan's special assistant for national security affairs where he worked under National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane during the Iran-Contra affair before departing the White House in 1985. These days, Kemp is the director of strategic programs at the Nixon Center, a public policy think tank founded by Richard Nixon in 1994.
Novak, meanwhile, continued to make a name for himself publishing classified intelligence. The FBI file reveals he and Evans drew the FBI's attention again when they published details of a classified CIA/Department of Defense report in 1987. Most famously, Novak incurred the wrath of the FBI when outed Valerie Plame as a CIA operative in 2003, sparking a media firestorm in the process.