On July 6, 2003, four months after the United States invaded Iraq, former ambassador Joseph Wilson's now historic op-ed, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," appeared in The New York Times. A week later, conservative pundit Robert Novak revealed in his newspaper column that Ambassador Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was a CIA operative. The public disclosure of that secret information spurred a federal investigation and led to the trial and conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, and the Wilsons' civil suit against top officials of the Bush administration. Much has been written about the "Valerie Plame" story, but Valerie herself has been silent, until now. Some of what has been reported about her has been frighteningly accurate, serving as a pungent reminder to the Wilsons that their lives are no longer private. And some has been completely false -- distorted characterizations of Valerie and her husband and their shared integrity.
Valerie Wilson retired from the CIA in January 2006, and now, not only as a citizen but as a wife and mother, the daughter of an Air Force colonel, and the sister of a U.S. marine, she sets the record straight, providing an extraordinary account of her training and experiences, and answers many questions that have been asked about her covert status, her responsibilities, and her life. As readers will see, the CIA still deems much of the detail of Valerie's story to be classified. As a service to readers, an afterword by national security reporter Laura Rozen provides a context for Valerie's own story.
Fair Game is the historic and unvarnished account of the personal and international consequences of speaking truth to power.
The problem with this book is that it has been heavily redacted by the CIA--and in parts is almost impossible to read. In order to understand Plame it helps to read journalist Laura Rozen's afterword--basically a straightforward Plame biography--first.
Plame's story is now part of the history of the Iraq War. An undercover CIA agent, she suggested that her husband, former Iraq ambassador and Africa expert Joseph Wilson--at the urging of the vice president's office--be sent to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein tried to obtain yellowcake uranium--one of the Bush administration's apocalyptic talking points for the war. After he wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times called "What I Did Not Find in Africa," Plame was "outed" as a CIA operative by columnist Robert Novak. [She was "fair game" according to Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist.] In a drawn out melodrama, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald rounded up the usual Beltway suspects (Rove, Ari Fleischer, Matt Cooper, Judy Miller etc.) before a grand jury, but eventually Lewis I. (Scooter) Libby, VP Cheney's chief-of-staff, was the only one sentenced in the case for perjury and obstruction of justice (which was soon commuted by Bush).
Plame's personal nightmare began with Bush's 2003 State of the Union address when the president declared "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"--the 16 famous words which directly contradicted Wilson's Niger findings. When Condoleezza Rice denied on Meet the Press that anyone in the White House knew that the Niger pancake uranium stories were untrue, Plame says it was "the last straw" for her husband and he wrote his Times piece.
Although the cast of villains in "Plamegate" is now legendary, a new one emerges in Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, and then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Working closely with Cheney, Roberts did a lot of the White House's political bidding and made life particularly uneasy for the Wilsons by a careful distortion of the facts before the 2004 presidential election.
Kudos go to special prosecutor Fitzgerald ("highly intelligent, compassionate person") and barbs go to Judith Miller of the New York Times ("I distrusted her reporting in articles she had written in the run-up the war"). Plame relates a bizarre chance meeting with Matt Cooper of Time magazine, then under Fitzgerald's screws--who asked Wilson "Could you do something for me?"--to ask the judge for leniency. Plame says the whole First Amendment fight with Miller and Cooper "was the Pentagon Papers or Watergate turned on its head...These reporters were allowing themselves to be exploited by the administration and were obstructing the investigation. It didn't make much ethical sense to me."
Plame also has harsh words for the Washington Post and its editorial writer Fred Hiatt: "I suddenly understood what it must have felt like to live in the Soviet Union and have only the state propaganda entity, Pravda, as the source of news about the world." She continues to batter the press at what came out at the Libby trial, which "showed how eagerly [journalists] accept spoon fed information from official sources...The trial did not show American journalism at its finest hour."
Although Plame guards her personal life with Wilson, she is blunt in acknowledging that the controversy surrounding them put a strain on their marriage, which "seemed balanced on a knife's edge." There was apparently resentment on Wilson's part that his CIA wife could not defend him against some of the attacks: "He deeply resented that I had not adequately come to his defense." When Wilson asked her "Why are you choosing the Agency and your career over your marriage?" it forced her to rethink her marriage and led to a reconciliation. She also reveals the intimate details of her post-partum depression which followed the birth of her twins in 2000.
Plame seems paranoid about events that have happened to her. Was a IRS audit normal or was it triggered by something else? Why did the bolts on a brand new deck suddenly come out? And why did the CIA almost scuttle her book through censorship. [In one of the great ironies of the book, the part about the redactions is heavily redacted.] Plame asks: "Was the White House also responsible for the stalling of my book?"
The book reveals little not already known about Plamegate--although it would have been interesting to see what would have been the result without the massive redactions of the CIA.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Simon & Schuster
October 21, 2007
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Excerpt from Fair Game by Valerie Plame Wilson
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.
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.