Plame discusses what led to her resignation as a CIA operative

Brian Rosenthal

Valerie Plame was sitting in her bedroom in 2003 when she found out that her secret identity as a high-ranking CIA agent had been published in The Washington Post.

Three years later, she resigned from the CIA, sued many members of the Bush administration for allegedly leaking her name and wrote a book about her experiences.

On Monday night, she spoke to a crowd of about 350 at Ryan Family Auditorium about her experiences.

The talk, entitled “Fair Game, My Life As A Spy and My Betrayal By The White House,” was one of her first public speeches since her identity as a CIA operative was revealed. She focused on her experiences before and after the incident. The event was sponsored by the Student Activities Fee, a $44 quarterly fee included in undergraduate students’ tuition.

Plame’s status was revealed on July 14, 2003, in a Washington Post column by Robert Novak. She said her name was leaked in retaliation for an editorial in The New York Times a week earlier written by Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson. Wilson, a former ambassador to African nations and Iraq, wrote that in trying to justify the Iraq War, the Bush administration exaggerated claims that Iraq intended to purchase uranium from Niger.

“Of course we were prepared for a push-back,” Plame said. “But we certainly were not prepared when the push-back came against me. ‘Cause one week later, Joe came into the bedroom, very early in the morning, and he tossed the paper on the bed and said ‘The S.O.B. did it.'”

The revelation of her identity led to the conviction of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, for his role in the leak. Libby was found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators in a formal investigation into the incident. Libby’s sentence was commuted by President Bush in July.

She said the leak could deal a blow to future U.S. intelligence efforts.

“I never expected that the push-back would come at the expense of our national security,” Plame said. “Because this is not a Republican issue, this is not a Democratic issue, this is an issue of your national security.”

Plame resigned from the CIA in January 2006. She decided to write a book about her experiences, but said she ran into trouble when the CIA refused to let her acknowledge her participation in the organization before 2002.

“It became, I tell you, like Alice in Wonderland, where you fall down the hole and white is black and black is white,” she said. “It became very clear that the CIA was definitely under political pressure to make sure that this book never got published.”

The book was eventually published, but with many parts blacked out. Plame said the “censoring” of her book is a First Amendment issue and is suing for the right to publish the full version of her story. She said the whole incident represents a threat to democracy.

“In the end, this fight is about democracy, which is only as strong as the citizens who participate in it,” she said.

Although the system is not perfect, Plame encouraged students in the audience to get involved in public service.

“Despite my personal experiences, I would greatly encourage young people to think about a career in public service,” she said. “Certainly our country is facing serious threats and it needs all the young, smart people it can get.”

Students said they came to the lecture to learn more about the incident, which received a lot of national media attention but is still unclear to many.

“I didn’t understand all that happened,” Weinberg senior Matt Miceli said. “I was curious for the real story.”

Weinberg junior Ryan Erickson, president of the College Democrats, which participated in organizing the event, said the speech illustrated a flaw in the government.

“I thought it was excellent,” he said. “It was a very different perspective on the current administration, a very unique perspective, an outstanding perspective.”

Reach Brian Rosenthal at [email protected]