Valerie Wilson Considered "Fair Game" By Busheviks

Published: Sun 28 Oct 2007 01:30 PM
Valerie Plame Wilson Was Considered "Fair Game" By the Busheviks. As a Result, Cheney and Bush Weakened Our National Security.
Yes, the reason why this is a treasonous act -- taking me and my particular case out of it -- is that this sort of thing jeopardizes assets who are trying to help our national security -- not to mention future potential sources of information, foreign ones. They may say to themselves: "I really have critical intelligence. I’d like to work with the CIA, for whatever host of motivations. But, gee, it looks like they couldn’t even protect one of their own. Why should I put myself in the line of fire? I’m going to go talk to the Russians down the street."
-- Valerie Plame Wilson, retired covert CIA operative, and author, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House
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Long-time readers know that BuzzFlash has had a special relationship with the Valerie Plame Wilson case since shortly after she was outed as a CIA operative in a Bob Novak column, in a leak orchestrated by Dick Cheney, and it appears with the knowledge of George W. Bush.
David Corn of the Nation first wrote a commentary about the dangerous significance of the Plame disclosure by Novak -- and BuzzFlash quickly followed up with a series of commentaries about it. It remained low on the radar of the Internet and the mainstream press, outside of the Nation and BuzzFlash, until the CIA -- and the right wing loves to overlook this fact -- formally filed a request with the Justice Department to launch an investigation as to whether a CIA operative had been illegally exposed.
So, it was the CIA itself that brought the Plame outing to the forefront and considered it harmful enough to merit legal scrutiny. At that point, the short mention in the Novak column (placed there by the White House) began to get periodic bursts of mainstream media coverage, building up over months and a series of events (including Ashcroft's mysterious recusal from the DOJ investigation) to the indictment, trial, and sentencing of Scooter Libby.
Now, in Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, Valerie Plame Wilson tells her side of the story, and we encourage you to read this account of a patriot betrayed.
Ironically, but perhaps predictably, the Bush Administration continued to pursue its vengeance on Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame by having the CIA require her to redact sections of the book that were already on the public record. So the publishers, Simon & Schuster invited the knowledgeable journalist Laura Rozen to pen an informative afterword that fills out the details that Plame was prohibited from including, even though many of them have been corroborated by the CIA itself!
BuzzFlash is proud to be up there with 60 Minutes and the major networks in getting one of the first interviews with Valerie Plame Wilson this week. Of course, you will find our conversation a bit different than theirs.
We interviewed Valerie on the morning of Tuesday, October 23.
Perhaps this is the most important point to take away from our interview and Plame's book: She specialized in tracking the illicit sale and ownership of WMDs (particularly in the Middle East), and the Bush Administration rendered her and her network inoperative. Could Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein have done as much damage to our national security infrastructure in regards to WMDs as the White House did?
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BuzzFlash: First of all, we just want to say how much we want to commend you for your service to the country. You’ve put in many years and sacrificed a lot to help defend the citizens of the United States. So on behalf of BuzzFlash and our readers, we thank you.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Thank you.
BuzzFlash: One of the things that I don’t think has sufficiently come out about your background, which we got from your book, was that your father was an Air Force colonel and your brother is a Marine.
Valerie Plame Wilson: That’s right. My father served in World War II in the South Pacific. He was a career Air Force officer, and at various points in his career he did intelligence work. And my brother did Marine recon and was wounded in the Tet offensive. And we’re very proud of them. So this theme of public service runs deeply in my family.
BuzzFlash: You grew up in Pennsylvania and went to Penn State?
Valerie Plame Wilson: Yes.
BuzzFlash: We are taught in history class about America, about democracy, our gift of freedom and so forth -- did you feel particularly patriotic at in your early schooling? Or did that come later?
Valerie Plame Wilson: I think I write in my book, we had a quiet patriotism. We would put the flag in the flowerpot in front of the house on Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day and the Fourth of July. But I grew up in an era when, I think it’s safe to say, politics hadn’t reached the fever pitch that we see today. My parents were actually Republicans, when Republicans were a very different animal from the group that we see today -- you know, belief in a strong defense, strong fiscal policy. We were certainly not a politically active family.
BuzzFlash: There’s an ongoing civil lawsuit you and Simon & Schuster have brought against the CIA, and particularly the Director of the CIA. And there is a website that is up, that our readers can go to.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Thank you so much for mentioning it. It’s My lawyers put that together. It’s very user-friendly, and it explains the case. What we contend is that the Agency’s position -- that I’m not permitted to acknowledge my Agency affiliation prior to January 2002 -- goes far beyond the reach of national security interests, and, in fact, infringes on First Amendment rights. You know, I don’t think censorship is too strong a word. It is, I believe, further punitive action by this administration toward me and toward Joe.
BuzzFlash: You, in essence, do have a gag order and have been censored, but Larry Johnson says that he was in a recruitment class of the CIA with you in 1985. And as a matter of record, the CIA confirmed publicly that you began working for them in 1985. So what other reason could there be than punitive for them to say that you can’t acknowledge that?
Valerie Plame Wilson: Indeed, I didn’t say that there was any rationale or logic to it. The government submitted a classified file in the course of our case this summer that my lawyers and I were not permitted to see. All I can fathom is that the world would stop turning if the public knew how long I’ve served my country. It truly has been sort of an Alice in Wonderland experience.
At one point, I would have happily complied if I had been asked to be the CIA poster child, to try to recruit smart, young people into the intelligence community, because the perils we face today are serious. We live in a very dangerous world. I would have loved to try to persuade people that a career in public service is much more satisfying and worthwhile, although certainly not as lucrative, as Wall Street.
BuzzFlash: We on BuzzFlash have repeatedly said what you just said -- that your ordeal is an Alice in Wonderland episode. What happened to you was a gross betrayal of the national security. This administration outed you -- and in doing so, compromised the very issue that they claimed forced us into war with Iraq -- the surveillance and containment of WMDs. The person in the street almost has to say, "Well, I can’t believe Valerie Plame Wilson, because this is just too preposterous. Why would a president of the United States, or a vice president, or their staffs, betray us in this way?"
Valerie Plame Wilson: You don’t need to take just my word for it. A jury of Mr. Libby’s peers convicted him on four out of five counts -- one of the most important things was obstruction of justice. The prosecutor and jury couldn’t get to the bottom of what actually happened.
It is preposterous. But in a perverse way, I take comfort in knowing we are not an anomaly, an aberrant example. There is clearly a pattern of behavior, across the board, of this administration seeking extra-Constitutional powers. Clearly there are some powerful forces within the administration who believe strongly in the so-called "unitary executive" theory, which says the president can do whatever he wants, beyond what is laid out in the Constitution -- that the Founders really got it wrong. You know, I guess they mean that "We’ve just been reading this Constitution wrong for the last 250 years."
There has been a multitude of documented examples -- including everything from the Justice Department firings, to warrantless wiretapping, and the list goes on. Fear tactics and "national security" have served as a means to retain power. In a small way, that is what has happened in my case, in the censorship of my book.
BuzzFlash: The administration has adopted policies throughout its years in office of bullying, intimidating, and striking back at anyone who attempts to disclose the truth, but thereby undermine the fictional policies or fictional assertions. We saw that with Paul O'Neill and with Richard Clarke. The list goes on and on, as you say of victims of their vengeance.
Valerie Plame Wilson: I want a t-shirt that says, "I was slimed by the Republican administration." You can make a lot of money on that.
BuzzFlash: In the "60 Minutes" interview you said, in essence, you were flabbergasted when you saw your name in the Bob Novak column. And it’s just so mind-boggling that, when we went to war, one of the basic premises was that Iraq posed a threat because they had weapons of mass destruction.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Right. "We don’t want these smoking guns to be in the shape of mushroom clouds." How many times did we hear that?
BuzzFlash: Here you were, a key person in the CIA who was looking into that very issue, and the Bush administration outs you. Bob Novak claims, and everyone involved in this very, very nasty bit of work claims, that, "Oh, everyone knows she was involved in that. We didn’t really upset anything."
Valerie Plame Wilson: Again, you don’t have to take my word on it -- was I covert? You can find the statements by the CIA Director General, Michael Hayden, by the judge in the Libby trial, and by Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald himself, who said and filed that I was covert until the time of my outing on July 14, 2003. I traveled overseas in a variety of cover under a variety of aliases, doing operational acts.
I have to say, this administration is unfortunately very good at moving the public’s attention away from the issue. It’s not about Joe and Valerie. It’s about how did these sixteen words get into the most important speech that the president makes, particularly on the eve of war?
And so they’ve tossed into the mix, "Nepotism. Joe Wilson’s a liar. She wasn’t covert. Everyone knew she was just a glorified secretary." All of this is, of course, shrapnel thrown up to divert people from asking, "Wait a minute -- why did they do this? Why did they continue to pound on this notion that it was an imminent threat?" I never have said, and I never will, that Saddam was not an evil dictator who clearly had malevolent intent, and who, of course, had used WMDs on his very own people. How atrocious! But this notion that it was an imminent threat to our national security, and that the invasion, conquest and occupation of Iraq was in our best interest, has proven, sadly, to be false.
BuzzFlash: This has come up in the mainstream media, but it’s certainly forgotten by The Washington Post editorial board, who, as you pointed out, has printed some editorials that appear almost to be made of whole cloth.
Valerie Plame Wilson: I don’t know if anyone else got that.
BuzzFlash: We read the editorials, and we couldn’t believe this. This was akin to the Wall Street Journal, which often runs editorials with misinformation that’s contradicted by articles on its news pages. The same thing happened in the Washington Post editorials about the Scooter Libby trial, and your husband’s original op-ed piece. There are so many facts the Post has gotten wrong in its editorials.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Exactly. Clearly the editorial page of The Washington Post is aligned with the Bush administration, and they were very pro-war. I just found it so disappointing, which is not a good enough word. They blamed Joe for something Prosecutor Fitzgerald had already proven had come from senior government officials -- that is, the revealing of my covert identity.
BuzzFlash: It’s beyond belief. Basically the Post editorials on this issue exhibited reckless disregard for the facts that were printed in its own news section.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Their circulation is plummeting, so maybe someone else has figured out: "This isn’t working for me." Opinion is one thing, but you’ve got to stick to the agreed-upon facts. =
BuzzFlash: That’s true. They could have an opinion about the entire situation which may be contrary to what you think, what I think, what Joe Wilson thinks.
Valerie Plame Wilson: That’s fair. That’s what editorials do.
BuzzFlash: But to misstate the facts that are on their news pages is, we repeat, reckless disregard for the facts.
Valerie Plame Wilson: They really don’t care. Their journalistic principles are now in the gutter.
BuzzFlash: One thing I wanted to bring up that’s in the public record is that George Tenet, prior to the infamous sixteen words in the State of the Union speech, had told the White House not to include the sixteen words in another speech a few months before the SOU.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Oh, several times.
BuzzFlash: They weren’t included in another major speech in October. So we have the head of the CIA telling the White House, on record, don’t go with that. That information is highly dubious. We don’t want the President of the United States to put his credibility behind those sixteen words. It is all in the record that this was said to the White House in October. Condi Rice admits it. Her chief of staff at the time admitted it. Then, when it came to explaining how it did end up in the SOU speech, Condi Rice, if I recall, said it was just some kind of oversight. We forgot somehow.
How could The Washington Post and other outlets print editorials saying it’s Joe Wilson’s fault, when the Director of the CIA had warned the White House not to go with such an assertion? It’s like The Washington Post had a severe memory lapse.
Valerie Plame Wilson: I agree wholeheartedly with you. I have nothing else to add. Unfortunately, it’s so indicative of the times that we live in. And I daresay that the mainstream media doesn’t dig very deep for what’s really going on as they’re being spoon-fed.
BuzzFlash: Let me take this a little further. While the Scooter Libby trial was going on, we had people continuing to say that Joe Wilson was wrong about WMDs. The right-wing shows, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly --
Valerie Plame Wilson: Of course. Because they have nothing left in their quiver. "Joe Wilson’s a liar. He’s a traitor."
BuzzFlash: But we have George Tenet, then head of the CIA, awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush after he was squeezed out as head of the CIA. George Tenet was agreeing with Joe Wilson.
Valerie Plame Wilson: I know. It really is crazy. But what can you expect in an environment where the president and the vice president have both equated voting Democratic with traitors. You know, if you vote for Democrats, then your safety will be endangered, and next thing you know, you’re going to be cozying up to Osama bin Laden. When you get to this level of rhetoric, almost anything is possible. It’s gone beyond philosophical differences, that’s for sure.
BuzzFlash: You’re on record in recent interviews, and in your book, as saying that the network that you worked with at the CIA dealing with counter-proliferation was endangered by your outing, not just you.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Yes.
BuzzFlash: What do you think could possibly be in the mind of someone like Dick Cheney or George Bush or Scooter Libby or Karl Rove, where they are willing to risk the national security of the United States just to show that they’re the ones in power?
Valerie Plame Wilson: You’ll have to ask them that question. I have no idea what their calculations are, but we can only judge them by their actions. Clearly, for all of those, power is paramount. They’ll make whatever deal and accommodations of their own consciences that they need to, to sustain that.
BuzzFlash: You have said that you hold George W. Bush, the President of the United States, accountable, because he said --
Valerie Plame Wilson: -- I would fire anyone.
BuzzFlash: The right wing always forgets that, of course. In the prosecution of Scooter Libby, which probably should have led also to the prosecution of Karl Rove, it came out that Vice President Cheney had written on a piece of paper saying, in essence, that the "Prez" is not going to make Scooter Libby the fall guy. Eventually, “Prez” was crossed out, but still visible.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Yes.
BuzzFlash: There’s an implication there. It never became a legal issue, because neither Bush nor Cheney was being prosecuted, but the implication is that George W. Bush very well knew about all this and was trying to protect Karl Rove -- that was the implication. So, do you fault the President for not standing by his word and firing anyone who was involved? Instead, when Scooter Libby was first convicted, before Bush commuted his sentence, he expressed concern for Libby and his family, but said nothing about what had been done in terms of damage to the CIA, nor to you and your family.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Yes.
BuzzFlash: Do you think that George W. Bush, based on that memo, knew more than he is saying he knew?
Valerie Plame Wilson: It certainly appears that way, but we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald clearly identified what he called a cloud over the office of the vice president, and a cloud over the White House. You know, the prosecutor worked as hard as he could to get to the bottom of things. But because of this obstruction of justice charge, he couldn’t finally prove it. And we all just have to live with that. It’s very clear that the President was very poorly served by his staff, to be generous.
BuzzFlash: When you say “his staff,” I assume that includes the Vice President.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Indeed. Their behavior is just so beyond acceptable political behavior that it is contemptible.
BuzzFlash: It’s contemptible because you joined the CIA, I assume, out of patriotism. Certainly, you took risks with your life, we can assume. It's a very dangerous business as a "NOC" -- is that the right term?
Valerie Plame Wilson: "Nonofficial covered." It’s not, of course, acknowledged.
BuzzFlash: You can’t acknowledge it. But Laura Rozen, describes that in the book's Afterword.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Yes.
BuzzFlash: You say it’s contemptible. We just can’t get over the fact that they betrayed the national security of the United States of America.
Valerie Plame Wilson: I know. If none of this had happened, my family and I would be living overseas, and I would be very happily pursuing proliferation issues, which I think are co-equal to counter-terrorism in protecting our national security.
Yes, the reason why this is a treasonous act -- taking me and my particular case out of it -- is that this sort of thing jeopardizes assets who are trying to help our national security -- not to mention future potential sources of information, foreign ones. They may say to themselves: "I really have critical intelligence. I’d like to work with the CIA, for whatever host of motivations. But, gee, it looks like they couldn’t even protect one of their own. Why should I put myself in the line of fire? I’m going to go talk to the Russians down the street."
BuzzFlash: Not only couldn’t they protect one of their own, they betrayed one of their own.
Valerie Plame Wilson: Exactly.
BuzzFlash: Patrick Fitzgerald could not build his case based on the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, which made it illegal to out a CIA agent in the wake of Philip Agee’s outing of CIA agents. Under that law, you have to prove motivation and will. Fitzgerald felt he couldn’t build that case, so Scooter Libby was prosecuted for obstruction of justice and perjury. As you say, he was convicted by a jury and sentenced by a judge who was appointed by George W. Bush.
My point is this: What is in the mindset of the right-wing supporters of this administration, particularly in the media, who go after you as though you’ve done something wrong, or your husband did something wrong? That law was enacted to protect CIA agents. It was heavily supported by the Republican Party, and would be heavily supported, one even assumes, by the right wing now. But it was okay to go after you, because, in essence, your husband had shamed the administration by pointing out that they had promoted a lie, in essence?
Valerie Plame Wilson: Yes.
BuzzFlash: Are they willing to have a double standard like that? You were a committed, resourceful --
Valerie Plame Wilson: -- loyal --
BuzzFlash: -- loyal CIA employee. And you did your job well. You were promoted. People had faith in your work. You were an asset to our Central Intelligence Agency and to our national security. Yet the right wing turned on you and made you into someone who was "disloyal."
Valerie Plame Wilson: Well, it’s part of the tactics. Joe had the audacity to question the central argument -- the central rationale -- for going to war with Iraq. The Intelligence Identities Protection Act clearly needs to be rewritten so this can never happen again.
One of the critics who stuck her head up -- the self-proclaimed expert, Victoria Toensing -- was one of the authors of that act. Well, I think it has shown the shortcomings of the law as it’s written. It has a very high bar. The prosecutor wasn’t quite able to apply it, as he needed to, in a very clear case of violating the law in spirit, if not, maybe, in technicality.
BuzzFlash: By all accounts you had a very commendable career with the CIA, working, eventually, in the very area the Bush administration claims it’s most concerned about, which is the WMDs. If you had it to do all over again, would you again be in the CIA?
Valerie Plame Wilson: Oh, absolutely. Right now, clearly, the intelligence community is deeply troubled. Morale is low, and there’s a lot of issues. But I did love my career. I was proud to serve my country. I had an amazing set of experiences -- everything from training and literally jumping out of airplanes, to firing automatic weapons, to working overseas undercover to pursue proliferation issues. You know, I’d rather have my job, any day, than be the head of GM, for instance, just because that’s what suited me. And I was told that this was a way I could serve my country.
And I do hope that the CIA is able to find its footing again, its mission -- to throw out the politics that have encroached upon its mission -- and to recruit young, smart people into its ranks of different ethnicities and language skills, because we do live in a dangerous world. A strong, independent CIA is essential to our security.
BuzzFlash: Valerie Plame Wilson, thank you again. And thank you again on behalf of our readers and all Americans for your service to the nation.
Valerie Plame Wilson: My pleasure.
BuzzFlash interview conducted by Mark Karlin.
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Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House (Hardcover, Simon & Schuster), by Valerie Plame Wilson, a BuzzFlash Premium.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson Updates BuzzFlash on the Bush Administration's Betrayal of Our National Security, A BuzzFlash Interview (September 12, 2006).
Ambassador Joe Wilson -- Still Fighting the Bush Administration's "Culture of Unaccountability" - July 9, 2005, A BuzzFlash Interview.
Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Author of "The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity." - April 30, 2004, A BuzzFlash Interview.

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