In Memoir, Ex-Spy Tells Her Side of CIA Leak Case
Saturday, October 20, 2007
In a new memoir, former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson recounts her shock as she watched then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, appearing before the United Nations on the eve of war, deliver what she knew to be a flawed portrait of the intelligence on Iraq.
"It was a powerful presentation," she wrote, "but I knew key parts of it were wrong."
At the time, Wilson served in an elite branch of the CIA charged with investigating Iraq's suspected weapons programs. In July 2003, four months after the invasion, her name and covert status were disclosed by the Bush administration to members of the media, setting off a leak inquiry that reached inside the White House and ended at the vice president's office.
The disclosures were part of a White House effort to rebut criticism of the Iraq war by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. No one was charged with the leak of her name, but Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted of lying to investigators and obstructing the investigation.
In her book, Wilson said that she had neither supported nor opposed the Iraq invasion but that over time, as U.S. casualties mounted, she came to regret it.
She and her colleagues, she wrote, believed that Saddam Hussein was hiding chemical and biological weapons, which she feared would be used against U.S. troops. But there was scant evidence to support those concerns, and she was certain that the president and his aides were publicly exaggerating the nuclear threat posed by Iraq at the time.
"What we struggled so hard to obtain was much too thin and not nearly robust enough to start a war over," she asserts in "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House." The book, published by Simon & Schuster, is scheduled to go on sale Monday.
The title refers to a comment attributed to Karl Rove, who during his tenure as a White House adviser reportedly told a journalist that "Joe Wilson's wife is fair game" for a White House intent on discrediting the former ambassador. He became a target after he publicly revealed that he had investigated, on behalf of the CIA, reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger. A year after he reported that there was no evidence to support the claim, it appeared in Bush's State of the Union speech, two months before the president ordered troops into Iraq.
There are few new details in the book about Joseph Wilson's trip, the leak investigation or the couple's personal lives. Much of that information has appeared in the former ambassador's memoir, which was published in 2004.
Valerie Wilson did write that she regrets having posed for photos in Vanity Fair magazine at the height of the leak investigation, a decision that brought her a CIA reprimand.
She also lashes out at Rove, whom she blames for orchestrating a smear campaign against her husband. She says a similar effort was later mounted against the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.).
"It was classic Karl Rove: Go after your enemy's strong point. In Joe's case it was that he told the truth; in Kerry's case, it was his exemplary military service."
Wilson spent 20 years in the CIA, first in Greece, where she posed as an American diplomat. Later, she lived in Europe as a covert operative. While she traveled the globe, friends, neighbors and even relatives believed that she was on leave from the State Department and that she later became an analyst for an energy company.
None of those facts are included in Wilson's account. They and others were redacted by CIA censors. Wilson fought the redactions in federal district court and lost.
The book contains an afterword that relies on interviews and public records to report biographical details that Wilson was prohibited from including.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.