Valerie Plame Wilson will be at FDL live to discuss her book, Fair Game, at 10:30 am PT/1:30 pm ET. Hope you can join us for what promises to be a lively and intriguing discussion.
Valerie Plame Wilson juggled a lot in her career at the CIA. Who could ever have predicted that betrayal would come from the White House?
Since senior administration officials whispered “Valerie Plame” and “CIA” in the same breath to half a dozen journalists in 2003, some people have not very subtly suggested that her work couldn’t really have been all that hush-hush if she had an office job, not to mention blond hair and little kids. “She was not involved in clandestine activities,” Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist who first published her name, wrote earlier this year in his dueling memoir. “Instead, each day she went to CIA headquarters in Langley where she worked on arms proliferation.”
There are lots of she said-he said moments in the Plame affair, matters on which an impartial observer can only conclude that, well, both sides have a point. But this is not one of them.
Before her retirement in 2006, Wilson spent more than 20 years in the CIA, including six years, one month and 29 days of overseas service. We know this because the agency, in a bureaucratic blunder, put it in an unclassified letter about her pension eligibility that it later tried desperately to recall, and that she has included as an appendix to “Fair Game.”
We also know that she worked on the operations side, the part of the CIA that runs agents and covert activities, rather than on the analytical side, which tries to make sense of all the information flowing in….
Imagine when, in her mid-20s, after a first CIA tour in Greece under diplomatic cover as a junior State Department official, she gave up her diplomatic passport and any public affiliation with the U.S. government and switched to being a NOC. Part of the transition involved coming home to the United States, ostensibly jobless, and moving back into her parents’ house while studying French. How many 20-somethings still living with Mom and Dad fantasize about saying, “Actually, I work for the CIA”? In young Valerie Plame’s case, it was true — and she apparently didn’t tell a soul. When she became famous a decade later, her dearest friends were stunned, and she feared they might not forgive her for all those years of lying.
Of course, for the crazed wingnuts among us, the CIA’s totting up of her NOC credentials won’t mean a thing. For the 80 percent of the country that isn’t loony, it is yet more proof that the Bush Administration has a host of problems, one of which is a treasonous act against our national security. You choose.
Crooks and Liars has the video available of last night’s 60 Minutes interview with Valerie Plame Wilson. The look on her face as Katie Couric asked her about potential damage from her outing was telling — all the more so now having read Larry Johnson’s insights on threats to her safety after the disclosure. I thought this particular quote summed things up precisely:
Asked if she thinks the president was in on this, Plame Wilson tells Couric, “I don’t know about that. But I, like most other Americans, saw President Bush say on TV that he would fire anyone from his administration found to be involved in leaking my name. It turns out the President is not a man of his word.”
She hopes her book will allow her to clear the air. But even this, she says, has been a bitter fight and her manuscript has the scars to prove it: CIA censors blacked out 10 percent of the copy.
So much so that, as the LATimes book reviewer notes, whole pages are blacked out of her memoir.
If much of that is hard to tease from this book, it’s hardly Plame’s fault. As a former CIA employee, the author had to submit her manuscript to the agency’s censors for review. They insisted on savage and — to this reader’s eye, at least — punitive redactions that seem designed to prevent publication. Plame and her publisher, Simon & Schuster, which reportedly paid a seven-figure advance for the book, took the CIA to federal court and lost. Rather than go meekly into the censors’ night, Simon & Schuster elected to publish Plame’s manuscript as she wrote it, with the censored passages and words blacked out. The effect is particularly Kafkaesque when she records her dealings with the censors, much of which is stricken. To replace at least some of the redacted material, the book contains an 80-page “afterward” by Washington-based journalist Laura Rozen in which facts about Plame’s life and career are gleaned from interviews and public record.
Frankly, I think it was a good decision on the publishers part to go to print this way, and to have Laura Rozen fill in the already publicly known information for the gaps. It just makes the hypocrisy and the danger of the whole situation all the more visibly obvious, doesn’t it?