Former CIA Agent Chronicles Her Side of Leak Case In Fair Game, Valerie Plame Wilson tells her side of the White House scandal over the leak of her identity. The former CIA agent's cover was blown by a conservative columnist after her husband criticized the Bush administration's rationale for the Iraq war.
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Former CIA Agent Chronicles Her Side of Leak Case

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Former CIA Agent Chronicles Her Side of Leak Case

Former CIA Agent Chronicles Her Side of Leak Case

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

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

Ms. Wilson, I'm tempted to have you turn to page 50, 51, 52, and read something for me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. VALERIE PLAME WILSON (Author, "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House"): Oh, you're so funny. Yeah - nothing there.

BLOCKS: Words, sentences, whole pages have been blacked out - those redactions ordered by the CIA. There's the second section of the book, written by journalist Laura Rozen that tries to fill in some of the many blanks.

Valerie Plame Wilson was outed as a CIA operative in 2003 in a column by Robert Novak. That came days after Wilson's husband, Joseph Wilson, wrote an op-ed in which 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. I asked her whether she felt any political pressure to manipulate intelligence.

Ms. WILSON: I was unaware, until later press accounts came out, of the unprecedented number of visits made to headquarters by Vice President Cheney and his then-chief of staff, Scooter Libby. I think any analyst - although there might not have been over or explicit pressure - would have to feel a certain amount of tension in knowing that the vice president was asking sort of the same questions over and over again.

But I have to say, for myself, I was primarily focused on running secure operations that got the job done. I very much had my head in the operational weeds. Just all of us were working flat-out to try to make something of the thin and patchy stuff that we were dealing with.

BLOCK: You do describe a scene in February of 2002. It's the moment that ultimately will lead to your husband, Joseph Wilson's, trip to Niger and the trip that ultimately led to your name being used as part of a, word to define a scandal, Plamegate. You say an officer rushed into your office, at headquarters, and she tells you someone just called from the vice president's office. What happened after that?

Ms. WILSON: That was so strange. She was a junior officer. And she came in quite alarmed because someone from the vice president's office had called her to ask about these intelligence reports that had been circulating within the intelligence community of the last few weeks about this alleged sale of yellowcake uranium from Niger to Iraq.

I was really nonplussed. I'd never heard of anything like that. We have protocols for policymakers to come back to intelligence community and inquire if they want more information or clarification or whatnot. So this is very strange.

And just as I was sort of turning that over, a reports officer came by, heard what was going on and suggested, well, what about sending Joe out there to check it out because, one, he knew of Joe's bona fides - that he had lived and worked in Africa for over 20 years, that he had served as a charge d'affaires in Iraq during the First Gulf War, he had met with Saddam Hussein, and in fact, a few years previously, had worked on another CIA-sponsored mission on similar topics. I said, well, let's go talk to our boss.

And after we finished telling him what was going on, my boss said to me, well, Valerie, when you go home tonight, could you please ask Joe to come into headquarters next week? And we'll get the people that need to be together here. And we'll figure out what we need to do. And that's exactly what happened.

BLOCK: The line from the Bush administration, after your husband published his critical remarks about intelligence, their line to reporters was this was a boondoggle, junket. It was arranged by Joe Wilson's wife. She's with the CIA. And many people have said, including yourself, that this was part of a campaign to discredit him.

Ms. WILSON: Indeed. I didn't know such thing. I did not suggest him. I did not recommend him. And that came out in information in the Libby trial documentary as well as witness testimony. Anyone who has any knowledge whatsoever of Niger would decline to say that any trip there would be considered a boondoggle or a junket.

BLOCK: What was your reaction when you read that Robert Novak's column and knew that your cover had been blown?

Ms. WILSON: Well, it just felt like a, you know, a soccer 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. I had, at that time, 3-year-old twins. And I knew instinctively my career was over. That was it. And I could not believe that Novak had done that.

BLOCK: Weren't you at all concerned that when your husband wrote that op-ed piece about his trip to Africa, started doing a lot of interviews, that that was really dangerously public ground for somebody whose wife was a covert operative at the time?

Ms. WILSON: Well, call me naive, but I had no inkling, no idea that senior government officials would commit treason by leaking my name to a variety of media sources. Furthermore, Joe had every reason and bona fides and credibility to have made this trip and to be commenting on the debate over the war quite apart from what I was doing professionally.

BLOCK: You said something a moment ago. You said that the officials committed treason by leaking your name.

Ms. WILSON: Mm-hmm.

BLOCK: That's a very tough allegation to make.

Ms. WILSON: That's - it's a tough term, it is, indeed. This issue is not just legal, however. I believe it is moral as well. And the damage that can be caused tick me personally out of it. But when you do that, you are jeopardizing assets in the field, their families. Perhaps worse, you're sending a signal to future sources of information, maybe a critical information, that think about, well, you know, I'd like to get this information to the U.S. government or the CIA. And then they say, wait a minute. They couldn't even protect one of their own so why should I put myself in this position, jeopardize my family's safety? You know, maybe I'll go talk to the Russians instead.

BLOCK: The only official who was ultimately convicted in this case was Lewis Libby, not for the leak of your name, but for lying about it. And his sentence, of course, later commuted by President Bush. Do you think there should have been other prosecutions over the leaking of your name?

Ms. WILSON: I think that the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald did an outstanding job. He was clearly meticulous. He was a straight shooter. Obviously, in the course of the trial, there was a lot of information that came out that showed other senior government officials were responsible as well. But it does show that the way the law is currently written, it's called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, that there's a pretty high bar, and that it's difficult to make that case.

BLOCK: So if you think of the other officials, who, at the time, knew of you and were talking about you - Richard Armitage, Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer - I'm probably leaving some out, you feel that justice was done? That they should not have been prosecuted?

Ms. WILSON: No, I didn't say that. But because what came out in the trial - but what was shocking to me was the extent and the recklessness with which these senior administration officials tossed around my name. 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. And the way my name was, as I say, tossed around recklessly, I found that shocking. They should have known better.

BLOCK: Well, Valerie Plame Wilson, thanks very much.

Ms. WILSON: Thank you.

BLOCK: Valerie Plame Wilson's memoir is titled "Fair Game."

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