Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 3, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

VALERIE PLAME'S REAL JOB....What does Valerie Plame actually do for the CIA? That's one of the $64,000 questions (the other is who the leakers are), so this might be a good time to gather together all the evidence in one place. Here's what various news reports have said so far:

  • Robert Novak's original column, July 14:
    Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.

  • David Corn in the Nation, July 16:
    ....a CIA operative who apparently has worked under what's known as "nonofficial cover" and who has had the dicey and difficult mission of tracking parties trying to buy or sell weapons of mass destruction or WMD material....a woman known to friends as an energy analyst for a private firm.

  • Newsday, July 21:
    Intelligence officials confirmed to Newsday Monday that Valerie Plame, wife of retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, works at the agency on weapons of mass destruction issues in an undercover capacity -- at least she was undercover until last week when she was named by columnist Robert Novak.

    ....A senior intelligence official confirmed that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked "alongside" the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger.

  • Washington Post, September 29:
    She is a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Novak published her maiden name, Plame, which she had used overseas and has not been using publicly. Intelligence sources said top officials at the agency were very concerned about the disclosure because it could allow foreign intelligence services to track down some of her former contacts and lead to the exposure of agents.

  • MSNBC, September 30:
    CIA lawyers answered a series of 11 questions "affirming that the woman's identity was classified, that whoever released it was not authorized to do so and that the news media would not have been able to guess her identity without the leak."

  • Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, September 30:
    I know Joseph Wilson well enough to know that his wife was in fact a deep cover operative running a network of informants on what is supposedly this administrations first-priority issue: Weapons of mass destruction.

  • Larry Johnson, former CIA analyst on NewsHour, September 30:
    I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been undercover for three decades....she works in an area where people she meets with overseas could be compromised.... she's a woman of great integrity....This is a woman who is very solid, very low key and not about show boating.

  • CNN, October 1:
    Sources told CNN that Plame works in the CIA's Directorate of Operations -- the part of the agency in charge of spying -- and worked in the field for many years as an undercover officer. "If she were only an analyst, not an operative, we would not have filed a crimes report" with the Justice Department, a senior intelligence official said.

    (An earlier version of this story quoted CNN reporter David Ensor saying, "This is a person who did run agents. This is a person who was out there in the world collecting information.")

  • Mel Goodman, former CIA analyst, Washington Post online Q&A, October 1:
    ....I've worked in Washington for the past 38 years, including 24 years at the CIA...and I know Ambassador Wilson....and I did not know that his wife was an agency employee. Let's face it....this was targetted information as part of a political vendetta....a pure act of revenge.

  • Jim Marcinkowski, former CIA case officer, LA Times, Ocotber 1:
    The exposure of Valerie Plame who I have reason to believe operated undercover apparently by a senior administration official, is nothing less than a despicable act for which someone should be held accountable. This case is especially upsetting to me because she was my agency classmate as well as my friend.

  • New York Times, October 2:
    Valerie Plame was among the small subset of Central Intelligence Agency officers who could not disguise their profession by telling friends that they worked for the United States government.

    That cover story, standard for American operatives who pretend to be diplomats or other federal employees, was not an option for Ms. Plame, people who knew her said on Wednesday. As a covert operative who specialized in nonconventional weapons and sometimes worked abroad, she passed herself off as a private energy expert, what the agency calls nonofficial cover.

  • New York Daily News, October 2:
    Two former senior intelligence officials confirmed that Valerie Plame, 40, is an operations officer in the spy agency's directorate of operations - the clandestine service.

    Plame "ran intelligence operations overseas," said Vincent Cannistraro, former CIA counterterrorism operations chief.

    Her specialty in the agency's nonproliferation center was biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and "recruiting agents, sending them to areas where they could access information about proliferation matters, weapons of mass destruction," Cannistraro said.

Four separate ex-CIA employees are now on the record saying Plame was undercover and ran a network of informants, and a fifth who knew Wilson and had 24 years at the Agency says he didn't know Plame worked there which means her status was hardly common knowledge.

Against this, we have Robert Novak's increasingly lonely assertion that Plame was "an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operator, and not in charge of undercover operatives" and "It was well known around Washington that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA."

Who do you believe?

Kevin Drum 10:36 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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