Valerie Plame

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Plame Wilson.jpg
Wilson and Plame at the premiere of "Fair Game"
BornValerie Elise Plame
Anchorage, Alaska
Alma materPennsylvania State University, College of Europe, London School of Economics
SpouseJoseph C. Wilson
Interest ofJeff Gannon

Valerie Plame Wilson (born 13 August 1963), known as Valerie Plame, is a former operations officer of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the wife of US Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson.

As the subject of the 2003 Plame affair or the CIA leak scandal, Plame had her identity as an undercover operative of the CIA leaked to the press on instructions from Lewis Libby, assistant to President Bush, and subsequently made public.

Valerie Plame later wrote a memoir detailing her career and the events leading up to her resignation from the CIA.[1] The film "Fair Game", released on 5 November 2010 and starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, was based on two books, one written by Plame, and the other by her husband. The Washington Post described the movie as being “full of distortions – not to mention outright inventions.”[2]

Graduate trainee

After graduating from Pennsylvania State University, Valerie Plame was accepted into the 1985–86 CIA officer training class and began what became a twenty-year career with the Agency. One of Plame's first assignments is believed to have been to assist Vincent Cannistraro, Chief of Operations and Analysis at the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, in the agency's investigation into the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland.[3] Her interest in nuclear matters could well have been engendered through investigating the Lockerbie bombing, whose highest profile victim UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, had threatened to prosecute URENCO, the British-owned uranium enrichment company, for illegally using Namibian yellowcake.[4]

Nuclear non-proliferation

Although the CIA will not publicly release the specific dates of Plame's employment from 1985 to 2002 due to security concerns,[5] 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.[6] 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 non-official cover capacity relating to counter-proliferation.[7][8][9]

Operating undercover

Plame served the CIA at times as a non-official cover (or NOC), operating undercover in (at least) two positions in Athens and Brussels.[10] While using her own name, "Valerie Plame", her assignments required posing in various professional roles in order to gather intelligence more effectively.[11][12][13] 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.[14]

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.[15] After the Persian 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 degree, 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 featured largely US-based Headquarters service, typical of most CIA officers.[16]

Valerie Plame married Joseph C. Wilson in 1998 and gave birth to their twins in 2000,[17] 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.[18] One project in which she was involved was ensuring that Iran did not acquire nuclear weapons.[19]

Uranium enrichment

During this time, part of her work concerned the determination of the use of aluminium tubes purchased by Iraq.[20] 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 aluminium tubes could be used in a centrifuge for nuclear enrichment.[21][22] 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.



  1. "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House"
  2. "On This Day — Plamegate : Lewis Libby Is Indicted (October 28 2005)"
  3. "Valerie Plame and the Lockerbie investigation"
  4. "Flight 103: it was the Uranium"
  5. Adam Liptak, "Valerie Wilson Sues CIA Over Memoir", The New York Times, May 31, 2007, accessed June 10, 2007.
  6. "Transcript of Special Counsel Fitzgerald's Press Conference", Washington Post, October 28, 2005, accessed July 15, 2006.
  7. "August 27, 2004 Affidavit of Patrick J. Fitzgerald" Placed in Public File Pursuant to Opinion Released February 3, 2006", online posting, The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2006: 28 n. 15, accessed August 7, 2007.
  8. "Unclassified Summary of Valerie Wilson's CIA Employment and Cover History", "Exhibit A" in sentencing memorandum exhibits, United States v. Libby, online posting of public document, The Next Hurrah (blog), May 26, 2007: 2-3.
  9. "Valerie Plame, Covert After All" ("Though some on the right have denied it, Plame was a covert CIA operative when she was exposed by Robert Novak. Read the document that proves It."), Salon magazine, May 30, 2007, accessed August 12, 2007. Includes screen shots of the PDF (three pages).
  10. "Debating a Leak: The Director: C.I.A. Chief Is Caught in Middle by Leak Inquiry", New York Times, October 5, 2003.
  11. "The Big Lie about Valerie Plame", (Special Guest blog), June 13, 2005, accessed July 15, 2006. (Johnson is "a former CIA analyst who was in Plame's officer training class in 1985-86" and Deputy Director for Special Operations, Transportation Security, and Anti-Terrorism Assistance in the US State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism until October 1993.)
  12. Michael Duffy and Timothy J. Burger, "NOC, NOC. Who's There? A Special Kind of Agent", Time magazine, October 19, 2003, accessed September 25, 2006.
  13. Richard Leiby and Dana Priest, "The Spy Next Door: Valerie Wilson, Ideal Mom, Was Also the Ideal Cover", Washington Post, October 8, 2003: A01, accessed October 31, 2006.
  14. Carolyn Kuhn, "Libby Trial: Plame, Brewster, Ellmann, Edwards, Dennehy, Jennings: Not Secret?", (Washington, D.C. "newswire"), January 31, 2007, accessed May 5, 2007.
  15. John Crewdson,"Plame's identity, if truly a secret, was thinly veiled," Chicago Tribune March 11, 2006, accessed September 25, 2006.
  16. The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture New York: Encounter Books (2008)
  17. Mark Memmott, "CIA 'outing' Might Fall Short of Crime", USA Today, July 14, 2005, accessed September 25, 2006.
  18. Larry C. Johnson, "Is Max Boot Using Oxycontin?" No Quarter, November 2, 2005, accessed July 15, 2006. See also Nicholas D. Kristof, "Secrets of the Scandal", New York Times October 11, 2003.
  19. Muriel Kane and Dave Edwards, "CBS confirms 2006 Raw Story scoop: Plame's job was to keep nukes from Iran", Raw Story (October 20, 2007).
  20. David Corn, "What Valerie Plame Really Did at the CIA", The Nation (web only), September 6, 2006. citing information in the book Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, co-written by Corn and Michael Isikoff.
  21. "Attachment A: Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, July 1 Through 31 December 2002, Office of the Directorate of Central Intelligence (ODCI), CIA, Dec. 2002, accessed October 27, 2006.
  22. "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions", January 1 Through June 30, 2002, Office of the Directorate of Central Intelligence (ODCI), CIA, June 2002, accessed October 27, 2006.
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