Is Plame to Blame?

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

The Valerie Plame Affair, which resulted in the conviction of White House aide Louis “Scooter” Libby, serves as rallying point for many opponents of the Bush Administration. However, some conservatives remain skeptical of Plame’s alleged victim status. While her job description was listed on the CIA rolls as an agent with “no official cover” (NOC), Plame had in reality had been performing administrative duties at Langley for at least five years. She remains willing to pose for the cameras as a starlet ex-agent, and continues participating in high-level lawsuits.

Rowan Scarborough, author of Rumsfeld’s War, questions why the CIA sent Plame’s husband to Africa in the first place, since the mission clearly called for spy infiltration and ‘objective’ intelligence. “And I think that if they had been notified, [the White House] would have nixed the trip,” asserted Scarborough at a Heritage Foundation book forum recently. In which case, there would have been no trial, no investigation, and Plame’s identity would have remained safe.

Scarborough maintains, somewhat conspiratorially, that even after the CIA sent a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, it was unlikely that the department would have pursued the matter absent public pressure. “This investigation, my source told me, was going nowhere. There was no plan to open an investigation, they were still talking to the CIA. And then in September of 2003, bam, someone leaks the existence of the referral to the news media, and I contend—and Justice contends—that it had to be someone in the CIA, because no one else knew about this referral. . . and by Monday, [the] Justice Department opens an investigation. . .”

When investigating the Plame affair, it becomes unclear as to who outed— actually outed— whom, or if Plame actually outed herself. Plame had continual knowledge of her husband’s activities, and ample opportunity to chide him to keep his trip to Niger confidential. An investigation would clearly implicate her as the guiding force behind his assignment.

Yet despite these dangers to his wife and the CIA, Wilson seemed set on publicizing his personal conclusion about the Iraq war. On June 13, 2003, Wilson leaked information about his sensitive trip to New York Times journalist Nick Christoff. His wife, Valerie Plame, attended the breakfast with Wilson and witnessed his conversation with Christoff. “I was not speaking to Mr. Christoff and I think my husband did say that he had –undertaken this trip but not to be named as a source,” Plame told Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) at a house committee hearing, admitting that she knew about her husband’s tactless activities.

Not content to feature anonymously in Christoff’s article, Wilson later wrote an op-ed to the New York Times titled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” which claimed that President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech twisted information about the presence of WMD’s in Iraq. Published on July 6, 2003, this op-ed triumphantly touted Wilson’s leak to reporter Christoff writing, “Those news stories about that unnamed former envoy who went to Niger? That’s me.”

Wilson clearly objected to the President’s speech not because it implicated him or his wife, but because it ignored his mission to Niger. Rather than citing American intelligence, President Bush had the nerve to state that “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa .” “. . .If the president had been referring to Niger, then his conclusion was not borne out by the facts as I understood them,” wrote Wilson. “The question now is how [my conclusion] was or was not used by our political leadership.”

Not content to let his grandstanding end there, Wilson then agreed to interview with CNN on July 7, 2003. He told CNN anchor Bill Hemmer “Well, I went in actually in February of 2002. . . at the request, I was told, of the office of the vice president. . .I traveled out there, spent eight days out there, and concluded that it was. . .impossible that this sort of transaction could be done clandestinely.” Did Wilson really believe that all of his publicity wouldn’t endanger his wife’s NOC status? Wilson’s claim that he represented the administration was also somewhat misleading, because the CIA did not even notify the Vice President that they were sending former-Ambassador Wilson on an aboveboard, open investigation in Niger.

Bethany Stotts
is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.