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Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Plame Felt Like 'soviet Nonperson'
By Kathaleen Roberts
Journal Northern Bureau
SANTA FE To flip through the first third of Valerie Plame Wilson's "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House" is to confront an optical maze of gray stripes interrupting juicy anecdotes and methodical musings.
CIA censors blacked out 10 percent of the text in her memoir, leaving its narrative disjointed and sometimes hard to follow.
"I believe the vast majority of what is blacked out in the book has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with diminishing me and Joe," she said in a telephone interview from New York, where she was making the rounds of "60 Minutes," "Larry King Live" and NPR, to name a few.
"I did have my moments of feeling like a Soviet nonperson."
"Joe," of course, refers to her husband, Joe Wilson, the former ambassador whose New York Times op-ed piece, "What I Did Not Find in Africa," triggered a Robert Novak column that outed his wife.
The couple, who now live in Santa Fe, met at the home of the Turkish ambassador, a detail censors excised from her book.
Agency censors also wouldn't allow Plame Wilson to acknowledge working there before 2002, even though public records and news stories are heavy with accounts describing her as a 20-year veteran.
Readers would be better off starting backward, by digesting reporter Laura Rozen's chronological afterword of the Wilson saga, as taken from public records, to fill in the gaps.
Discounted by critics as a "glorified secretary," Plame Wilson takes great pains to defend her job description.
She rose to top-level positions around the globe, working deep undercover, she writes. By 1998, she was working at the agency's Langley, Va., headquarters in counter-proliferation.
By the time her name was leaked, she was chief of operations for the CIA's joint task force on Iraq, managing dozens of officers and analysts.
"I had responsibilities for going after the bad guys," she said. "It was a job I loved."
In 2002, the CIA sent her husband to Niger on an unpaid, eight-day, fact-finding trip.
Within hours of his return, he had told CIA de-briefers there was no reason to believe Iraq had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from the African nation.
Nevertheless, President Bush included the yellowcake allegations in his State of the Union Address. In response, Joe Wilson wrote the piece accusing the president of misleading the American people into war.
Both Wilsons are convinced she was outed in retaliation by White House officials who sought to discredit him by dismissing the trip as a junket arranged by his wife.
"This notion that there was nepotism involved is at minimum a red herring," she said in Tuesday's interview.
She added that she learned her cover was blown when her husband barged into their Washington, D.C., bedroom, threw the newspaper on the bed and said, "Well, the S.O.B. did it."
In an instant, she knew her career was over: "I felt like I had been sucker-punched in the gut. I got up, put on my robe, went downstairs and called my boss."
Bush vowed to fire whoever leaked her identity. As the investigation dragged on, Plame Wilson says, she received threats and asked the CIA for security, but was denied.
"I was heartbroken," she said. "The agency likes to talk big on saying we are all family, but I certainly didn't feel like part of the family."
During the turmoil the Wilsons considered moving to New Zealand.
Instead, they moved to Santa Fe earlier this year, impressed by the thriving artistic and cultural community in New Mexico's capital city.
Plame Wilson was at home alone in March 2007 when she learned that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, had been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. Bush commuted his prison sentence.
"It showed that the prosecutor could not get to the bottom of this," she said. "It was a very sad day for our country."
Valerie Plame Wilson will discuss "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House" on Nov. 6 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe. For information, call 988-1234.