"[Fitzgerald charged that Libby told FBI agents and the grand jury that] he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another... at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter."
— Valerie Plame
"Unless a pardon is ruled out by President Bush, the American people will certainly not learn the truth"
— Valerie Plame
Valerie Elise Plame Wilson (born April 19, 1963), known as Valerie Plame, Valerie E. Wilson, and Valerie Plame Wilson, is a former United States CIA Operations Officer and the author of a memoir detailing her career and the events leading up to her resignation from the CIA.
After graduating from college, moving to Washington, D.C., and marrying Sesler, Plame worked at a clothing store while awaiting results of her application to the CIA. She was accepted into the 1985–86 CIA officer training class and began her training for what would become a twenty-year career with the Agency. Although the CIA will not release publicly the specific dates from 1985 to 2002 when she worked for it, due to security concerns, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald affirmed that Plame "was a CIA officer from January 1, 2002, forward" and that "her association with the CIA was classified at that time through July 2003. Due to the nature of her clandestine work for the CIA, many details about Plame's professional career are still classified, but it is documented that she worked for the CIA in a clandestine capacity relating to counter-proliferation.
Plame served the CIA as a non-official cover (or NOC), operating undercover in (at least) two positions in Athens and Brussels. While using her own name, "Valerie Plame", her assignments required posing in various professional roles in order to gather intelligence more effectively. Two of her covers include serving as a junior consular officer in the early 1990s in Athens and then later an energy analyst for the private company (founded in 1994) "Brewster Jennings & Associates," which the CIA later acknowledged was a front company for certain investigations.
A former senior diplomat in Athens remembered Plame in her dual role and also recalled that she served as one of the 'control officers' coordinating the visit of President George H.W. Bush to Greece and Turkey in July 1991. After the Gulf War in 1991, the CIA sent her first to the London School of Economics and then the College of Europe, in Bruges, for Master's degrees. After earning the second one, she stayed on in Brussels, where she began her next assignment under cover as an "energy consultant" for Brewster-Jennings. Beginning in 1997, Plame's primary assignment was shifted to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The CIA confirmed her status as a NOC or "deep cover officer" and remarked that she was talented and highly intelligent, but decried the fact that her career largely featured US-based Headquarters service, typical of most CIA officers.
She married Wilson in 1998 and gave birth to their twins in 2000, and resumed travel overseas in 2001, 2002, and 2003 as part of her cover job. She met with workers in the nuclear industry, cultivated sources, and managed spies. One project in which she was involved was ensuring that Iran did not acquire nuclear weapons.
During this time, part of her work concerned the determination of the use of aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq. CIA analysts prior to the Iraq invasion were quoted by the White House as believing that Iraq was trying to acquire nuclear weapons and that these aluminum tubes could be used in a centrifuge for nuclear enrichment. David Corn and Michael Isikoff argued that the undercover work being done by Plame and her CIA colleagues in the Directorate of Central Intelligence Nonproliferation Center strongly contradicted such a claim. However, the CIA was concerned enough to send Plame's husband, Joseph C. Wilson to Niger in 2002 to investigate the potential sale of nuclear materials from Niger to Iraq. The CIA's concerns over nuclear proliferation were bolstered by Niger's main export of uranium ore, ahead of livestock, cowpeas and onions.
Main articles: CIA leak grand jury investigation, Plame affair, and Plame affair criminal investigation
On July 14, 2003, Washington Post journalist Robert Novak, from information obtained from Richard Armitage at the US State Department, effectively ended Valerie Plame's career with the CIA (from which she later resigned in December 2005) by revealing in his column her identity as a CIA operative. Legal documents published in the course of the CIA leak grand jury investigation, United States v. Libby, and Congressional investigations, establish her classified employment as a covert officer for the CIA at the time that Novak's column was published in July 2003.
In his press conference of October 28, 2005, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald explained in considerable detail the necessity of secrecy about his grand jury investigation that began in the fall of 2003 — "when it was clear that Valerie Wilson's cover had been blown" — and the background and consequences of the indictment of then high-ranking Bush Administration official Lewis Libby as it pertains to Valerie E. Wilson.
Fitzgerald's subsequent replies to reporters' questions shed further light on the parameters of the leak investigation and what, as its lead prosecutor, bound by the rules of grand jury secrecy, he could and could not reveal legally at the time. Official court documents released later, on April 5, 2006, reveal that Libby testified that "he was specifically authorized in advance" of his meeting with New York Times reporter Judith Miller to disclose the "key judgments" of the October 2002 classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). According to Libby's testimony, "the Vice President later advised him that the President had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE [to Judith Miller]." According to his testimony, the information that Libby was authorized to disclose to Miller "was intended to rebut the allegations of an administration critic, former ambassador Joseph Wilson." A couple of days after Libby's meeting with Miller, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told reporters, "We don't want to try to get into kind of selective declassification" of the NIE, adding "We're looking at what can be made available." A "sanitized version" of the NIE in question was officially declassified on July 18, 2003, ten days after Libby's contact with Miller, and was presented at a White House background briefing on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. The NIE contains no references to Valerie Plame or her CIA status, but the Special Counsel has suggested that White House actions were part of "a plan to discredit, punish or seek revenge against Mr. Wilson." President Bush had previously indicated that he would fire whoever had outed Plame.
A court filing by Libby's defense team argued that Plame was not foremost in the minds of administration officials as they sought to rebut charges – made by her husband – that the White House manipulated intelligence to make a case for invasion. The filing indicated that Libby's lawyers did not intend to say that he was told to reveal Plame's identity. The court filing also stated that "Mr. Libby plans to demonstrate that the indictment is wrong when it suggests that he and other government officials viewed Ms. Wilson's role in sending her husband to Africa as important," indicating that Libby's lawyers planned to call Karl Rove to the stand. According to Rove's lawyer, Fitzgerald has decided against pressing charges against Rove.
The five-count indictment of Libby included perjury (two counts), obstruction of justice (one count), and making false statements to federal investigators (two counts).
United States v. Libby
On March 6, 2007, Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice, making false statements, and two counts of perjury. He was acquitted on one count of making false statements. He was not charged for revealing Plame's CIA status. His sentence included a $250,000 fine, 30 months in prison and two years of probation. On July 2, 2007, President George W. Bush commuted Libby's sentence, removing the jail term but leaving in place the fine and probation, calling the sentence "excessive." In a subsequent press conference, on July 12, 2007, Bush noted, "...the Scooter Libby decision was, I thought, a fair and balanced decision." The Wilsons responded to the commutation in statements posted by their legal counsel, Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and on their own legal support website.
See also: Joseph C. Wilson#Reactions to the Libby trial and commutation
Why Armitage's role in disclosing Plame's identity to Novak was not pursued has never been explained.
Wilson v. Cheney
On July 13, 2006, Joseph and Valerie Wilson filed a civil lawsuit against Rove, Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other unnamed senior White House officials (among whom they later added Richard Armitage) for their alleged role in the public disclosure of Valerie Wilson's classified CIA status. Judge John D. Bates dismissed the Wilsons' lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds on July 19, 2007; the Wilsons appealed. On August 12, 2008, in a 2-1 decision, the three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the dismissal. Melanie Sloan, of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which represents the Wilsons, "said the group will request the full D.C. Circuit to review the case and appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court." Agreeing with the Bush administration, the Obama Justice Department argues the Wilsons have no legitimate grounds to sue. On the current justice department position, Sloan stated: "We are deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has failed to recognize the grievous harm top Bush White House officials inflicted on Joe and Valerie Wilson. The government’s position cannot be reconciled with President Obama’s oft-stated commitment to once again make government officials accountable for their actions."
House Oversight Committee hearing
On March 8, 2007, two days after the verdict in the Libby trial, Congressman Henry Waxman, chair of the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform, announced that his committee would ask Plame to testify on March 16, in an effort by his committee to look into "whether White House officials followed appropriate procedures for safeguarding Plame's identity."
On March 16, 2007, at these hearings about the disclosure, Waxman read a statement about Plame's CIA career that had been cleared by CIA director Gen. Michael V. Hayden and the CIA, stating that she was undercover and that her employment status with the CIA was classified information prohibited from disclosure under Executive Order 12958.
Subsequent reports in various news accounts focused on the following parts of her testimony:
"My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in the White House and state department"; this abuse occurred for "purely political reasons."
After her identity was exposed by officials in the Bush administration, she had to leave the CIA: "I could no longer perform the work for which I had been highly trained."
She did not select her husband for a CIA fact-finding trip to Niger, but an officer senior to her selected him and told her to ask her husband if he would consider it: "I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I did not have the authority [...]."
Main article: Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House
Plame's husband Joseph Wilson announced on March 6, 2007, that the couple had "signed a deal with Warner Bros of Hollywood to offer their consulting services — or maybe more — in the making of the forthcoming movie about the Libby trial," their lives and the CIA leak scandal. The feature film, a co-production between Weed Road's Akiva Goldsman and Jerry and Janet Zucker of Zucker Productions with a screenplay by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth to be based in part on Valerie Wilson's memoir Fair Game (contingent on CIA clearances) originally scheduled for release in August 2007, but ultimately published on October 22, 2007.
In May 2006, the New York Times reported that Valerie Wilson agreed to a $2.5-million book deal with Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. Steve Ross, senior vice president and publisher of Crown, told the Times that the book would be her "first airing of her actual role in the American intelligence community, as well as the prominence of her role in the lead-up to the war." Subsequently, the New York Times reported that the book deal fell through and that Plame was in exclusive negotiations with Simon & Schuster. Ultimately, Simon and Schuster publicly confirmed the book deal, though not the financial terms and, at first, no set publication date.
On May 31, 2007, various news media reported that Simon and Schuster and Valerie Wilson were suing J. Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, and Michael V. Hayden, Director of the CIA, arguing that the CIA "is unconstitutionally interfering with the publication of her memoir, Fair Game, ... set to be published in October , by not allowing Plame to mention the dates that she served in the CIA." Judge Barbara S. Jones, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, in Manhattan, interpreted the issue in favor of the CIA. Judge Jones ruled that Valerie Plame's constitutional freedoms were overridden by the Classified Information Act. Therefore, the ruling stated that Plame would not be able to describe in her memoir the precise dates she had worked for the CIA. In 2009, the federal court of appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed Judge Jones's ruling.
On October 31, 2007, in her interview with Charlie Rose broadcast on The Charlie Rose Show , Valerie Wilson discussed many aspects relating to her memoir: the CIA leak grand jury investigation; United States v. Libby, the civil suit which she and her husband are still pursuing against Libby, Cheney, Rove, and Armitage; and other matters presented in her memoir relating to her covert work with the CIA.
The film, Fair Game, was released November 5, 2010, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. It is based on two books, one written by Plame, and the other by her husband.
In May 2011, it was announced that Plame would author a series of spy novels with mystery writer Sarah Lovett, the first of which was to be released in 2012 by Blue Rider Press, an imprint of the Penguin Group.