Former CIA Agent Chronicles Her Side of Leak Case

Valerie Plame Wilson

In March, former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson appears before a House committee investigating whether White House officials followed proper procedures for safeguarding her identity. She is the author of a new book about the case, Fair Game. Mark Wilson/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Reading Fair Game, the new memoir by former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, requires leaps of faith and logic.

Words, sentences and even whole pages have been blacked out — cuts ordered by the CIA. A second section of the book written by journalist Laura Rozen tries to fill in some of the many blanks.

In 2003, Valerie Plame Wilson was "outed" as a CIA operative in a column by conservative commentator Robert Novak. That came days after an op-ed piece by Wilson's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was published in The New York Times. In it, he accused the Bush administration of exaggerating the Iraqi threat in the lead-up to the war.

At the time, Valerie Wilson was a covert operative at CIA headquarters — tracking intelligence about Iraq's presumed weapons of mass destruction.

Wilson says that reading Novak's column "felt like a sucker punch to the gut."

"It just took the wind out of me. Immediately, I thought of the network of assets I had worked with. I thought of my family's safety ... and I knew instinctively my career was over. That was it," Wilson tells Melissa Block.

Wilson denies claims that she recommended her husband to a high-level trip to Africa to investigate whether Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. She also notes that his diplomatic experience in both Africa and in Iraq made him highly qualified to undertake the Niger mission.

Only one person was convicted in the case of the leaking of Plame's identity: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's then-chief of staff. Libby was found guilty of lying and obstruction of justice in the case. President Bush commuted his 30-month sentence.

Wilson praises Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the case. But she says that information revealed during the course of the trial showed that other senior government officials were also responsible for the leak of her identity.

"What was shocking to me was the extent and the recklessness with which these senior administration officials tossed around my name," Wilson says. "They understood what was at stake. They all signed secrecy agreements, as well, to protect the Constitution and national security when they came on board .... They should have known better."

Excerpt: 'Fair Game'

Cover of 'Fair Game'

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: All employees of the Central Intelligence Agency must sign a confidentiality agreement that requires that they submit their writings to the CIA for prepublication review. Valerie Plame Wilson, whose work for the CIA entailed covert operations, of course abided by this agreement, and her manuscript was reviewed by the CIA and returned to her with numerous redactions — cuts — that the CIA determined were necessary. Many of these cuts related to material that would disclose Ms. Wilson's dates of service, information that has already been widely disseminated.

As has been reported, Simon & Schuster and Ms. Wilson brought a legal action against the CIA; we felt that the redactions required by the CIA went beyond any reasonable requirements of national security and impaired important First Amendment rights. A federal district court has disagreed, determining, essentially, that while Ms. Wilson's dates of service may be in the public domain, they cannot be reported by Ms. Wilson. Accordingly, Ms. Wilson's portion of this book contains only that information that the CIA has deemed unclassified and has allowed her to include.

The sections of Fair Game that have been blacked out indicate the places where the CIA has ordered cuts. Still, even with these substantial redactions, we believe the book conveys the power of Ms. Wilson's story, if, alas, not all its details.

To enhance the reader's experience Simon & Schuster has added an afterword by reporter Laura Rozen. Drawn from interviews and public sources, it provides historical background and recounts portions of Ms. Wilson's life and career that she was unable to include herself. When the afterword is read together with Fair Game, a full and vivid picture of Valerie Plame Wilson emerges. Ms. Wilson has had no input or involvement in the creation of the afterword, which she has not seen before the publication of this book.

Simon & Schuster has also added an appendix of relevant documents.

We thank you for your understanding and look forward to your enjoyment of this important book.

CHAPTER 1: Joining the CIA

Our group of five — three men and two women — trekked through an empty tract of wooded land and swamp, known in CIA terms as the "Farm." It was 4 a.m. and we had been on the move all night. Having practiced escape and evasion from an ostensible hostile force — our instructors — we were close to meeting up with our other classmates. Together we would attack the enemy, then board a helicopter to safety. This exercise, called the final assault, was the climax of our paramilitary training. Each of us carried eighty-pound backpacks, filled with essential survival gear: tents, freeze-dried food, tablets to purify drinking water, and 5.56 mm ammunition for our M-16s. The late fall weather was bitter, and slimy water sloshed in our combat boots. A blister on my heel radiated little jabs of stinging pain. My friend Pete, a former Army officer, usually ready with a wisecrack and a smirk, hadn't spoken in hours, while John, our resident beer guzzler, carried not only his backpack but at least fifty extra pounds of body weight. His round face was covered with mud and sweat.

When our point man gave the hand signal, we gratefully stopped, shrugged off our backpacks, and slumped together for a moment against a small protected knoll. Then we fell into formation again and moved toward the landing zone. When we finally reached a clearing at dawn, I could barely make out the blades of an enormous helicopter rotating slowly, and the friendly faces of my other classmates, Sharon, David, and Tex. I heard Pete mutter, "Finally." We all surged forward, energized by relief and hope. I began to imagine the hot shower I would enjoy when this was over. Then suddenly the sharp firecrackers of light from magnesium flares exploded over our heads and the repetitive sound of machine-gun fire sent adrenaline rushing through my veins.

I dropped to the ground and crawled over to Pete, thinking he would know what to do. Despite three months of hard training, my idyllic suburban upbringing had not prepared me for incoming fire and the overwhelming physical sensations that accompanied it. Dragging me a few yards away to a crest of land, Pete pointed at the helicopter. "Get your ass over there!"

Before I knew it, we brushed aside any pretense of military discipline and made a dead run at the helicopter. As we careened down the hill at full speed, M-16s blazing, I caught the eye of a classmate running alongside me. His expression suggested a hint of enjoyment, or at least his awareness of the absurdity of the situation. Soon enough, I threw myself into the open door of the helicopter and caught my breath beneath the noise of artillery and the deafening sounds of the rotors and engines. I shrugged off my pack, and as we were lifted to safety, I marveled at how I came to be at the Farm.

*********************************************** ************************************************* ******* *************************************** ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************ ************* ********************************** ************************************************ ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

********** * *********************************************** **** ******************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************ *********************** ************************************************* ************************************************* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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*********************************************** ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************* ********************** ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

********* ********************************************** ************************************************* ************************************************* * * * * * * * * * As a teenager, I read William Stevenson's A Man Called Intrepid, about the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) days during World War II. The OSS was the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency. I loved the book and I found the history intriguing. I began to seriously consider what working for the CIA meant. If I joined, what would I be asked to do? Was it dangerous? Did I believe in what the CIA did? My family had always valued public service and kept a quiet patriotism. On Memorial Day and the Fourth of July we always put out the flag in a big flowerpot. My father, Samuel Plame, was a retired Air Force colonel. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he was studying at the University of Illinois in Champaign. He remembers that the next day the campus was a ghost town; all the eligible male students had left to sign up for military service. He was soon on his own way to enlist in the Army Air Corps — the Air Force predecessor — in San Diego. He served in the South Pacific during World War II and has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of corny jokes, stories, and songs from his time there. My brother, Robert Plame, older than me by sixteen years, joined the Marines in 1966 and was promptly sent to Vietnam. One day in 1967, as my parents and I returned home from some errands, the neighbors told us that two uniformed Marines had been knocking at our door. We learned that Bob was MIA. My stricken parents assumed the worst and, for a few days, we did not know if Bob was dead or alive. He was finally located on a hospital ship. During a reconnaissance mission behind enemy lines, he had been badly wounded in his right arm. He endured years of multiple, painful operations to restore some sensation in his limb. Incredibly, with just one working arm and hand, he went on to learn how to fly, ski, write, and tie shoelaces. He has been happily married to Christie, a nurse, for nearly thirty years and is the proud father of two bright and beautiful girls. I thought that if I served in the CIA it would extend a family tradition. Still, I had my nagging doubts. Hadn't the CIA tried to kill Castro with an exploding cigar?

"Imagine you are meeting an agent in a foreign hotel room and there is suddenly a loud banging at the door. You hear 'Police, let us in!' What do you do?" This question was being put to me by a kindly looking older woman wearing pearls and a surprisingly bright yellow blouse during my initial CIA interview in Washington. I * * * * * * * ********* * * * * * * * had checked into a modest — well, seedy — hotel in Arlington, Virginia. I had no idea what to expect but the interview the next day, in a beige building in the suburbs of Washington, followed along the traditional lines of "What are your strengths, what are your weaknesses, why do you want to work for the CIA" — until now. This question veered off the conventional path and was more interesting. My immediate thought was that excluding espionage, there is only one good reason for an unrelated man and woman to be in a hotel room together. "I would take off my blouse, tell the agent to do the same, and jump into bed before telling the police to come in." Her barely perceptible smile told me I had hit on the right answer. I thought, This could be fun. I was ready for the next question.

*********************************************** ****************************** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * but I thought if it didn't pan out, I could find something on Capitol Hill or in the Peace Corps. In the meantime, I found a job as a management trainee with a * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Washington department store * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * . Despite the 20 percent employee discount, I hated working in retail, but it was a way to pay the rent as I continued through months of CIA psychological tests, a battery of interviews, and an exacting, comprehensive physical exam. One question out of at least four hundred in one psychological test still stands out in my memory: "Do you like tall women?" I still have no idea if I got the right answer on that one. Later that summer, I was asked to take a polygraph exam. It was a weird, but relatively brief experience. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** *********** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * At the same time, the Agency was conducting a security background check on me. Several neighbors reported to my parents that "someone * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * had interviewed them to ask if I had any known drinking, drug, or other problems. ***************** * * * * * * * * * * * * * ************************************************* ************************************************ ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* ************************************************* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * * * ******* * * * * * I nervously settled into my chair in a nondescript government classroom in a bland office building in a congested Virginia suburb. I took in my * classmates in our CIA introduction course. Many of the young men were clearly ex-military types, some still sporting regulation buzz cuts. Just less than half were women, but as I later learned, only a fraction of those were destined, like me, to work in the Directorate of Operations (DO). The rest were pegged to become analysts in the Directorate of Intelligence (DI) or administrative/logistical officers and the like in the Directorate of Administration (DA). A few were engineers who would ultimately work in the Directorate of Science and Technology (DST), the Agency's research arm. It looked like I was the * * * * * ** * * by far and this suspicion was confirmed when a tiny woman, nearly as wide as she was tall, took me and three other (male) classmates into her office during a break. She was the DO liaison to the Career Trainees (CTs) — in other words, she would be our den mother as we worked through the initial training. It was hard to believe that this matronly woman had actually been an operator in "the field," but she certainly knew a lot more about the CIA than any of us did. "* * * * * * * * * * * * * * ******************************** ************************************************* * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * PCS meant "permanent change of Station," in other words, assignment abroad. As the acronyms flew around us, it was clear that a paramilitary culture reigned at the CIA.

During our lunch breaks, taken at our desks or in nearby cafes, I got to know my classmates. I couldn't help but feel intimidated — most either had gone to prestigious universities, or had at least a master's degree or some years of military experience. All seemed much more sophisticated, smarter, better traveled, and wittier than I was. Feeling overwhelmed, I vowed to keep my mouth shut and learn as much as possible. Perhaps no one would notice that I had precious little meaningful life experience and was educated at a state school. Over the next few weeks, an interesting dynamic emerged. We had all taken the Myers-Briggs psychological profile test during the interview process. Most of the future operations officers, myself included, scored varying degrees of "ENTJ" — Extrovert, Intuitive, Thinking, Judgmental. ENTJ personality types tend to be strong leaders and feel the need to take command of a situation. The Myers-Briggs description of an ENTJ says that "although ENTJs are tolerant of established procedures, they can abandon any procedure when it can be shown to be indifferent to the goal it seemingly serves...They are tireless in the devotion to their jobs and can easily block out other areas of life for the sake of work. The ENTJ female may find it difficult to select a mate who is not overwhelmed by her strong personality and will." ENTJs appear in approximately 5 percent of the population; apparently, that's what the CIA was looking for in its future operations officers. We were drawn to one another, not just because we would be doing the same training and ultimately the same job, but because we had similar personalities. Wherever the future case officers gathered on breaks, they were usually the loudest, most social, and I thought, most entertaining. The air seemed to crackle with excitement. I began making friends in the class and despite our different backgrounds, we began to form deep bonds. I looked forward to attending the CIA introductory course every day where we learned how the Agency was organized, how intelligence was collected and analyzed, and how the wider intelligence community functioned. One of the most gripping guest speakers was a woman who had served her first tour as a case officer in Moscow. She told us in harrowing detail how she had been surveilled by Soviet intelligence while picking up and setting down "dead drops" — fabricated rocks or other innocent-looking containers with notes, money, and instructions to an important Soviet double agent. She was thrown out of the country (declared persona non grata, or PNGed in CIA lingo) but her agent, the spy for whom she was responsible, was not so lucky. He was executed. We all sat in stunned silence as we digested the huge responsibilities and the consequences of making a mistake.

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Fair Game

My Life As a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House

by Valerie Plame Wilson and Laura Rozen

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