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Valerie Plame finds herself again fair game

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Valerie Plame, the former CIA operative now running for the U.S. House seat from New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, testifies to a House committee in 2017. (Dennis Cook/Associated Press)

Valerie Plame is once again fair game.

A candidate for the U.S. House seat from New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, the former CIA agent is among a crowded field of Democrats vying to fill the seat being vacated by Ben Ray Luján, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Recently, Plame received both praise and criticism for a movie trailer-type campaign ad titled “Undercover” that plays up her CIA background.

And now, a former CIA colleague is resurrecting allegations from “the Plame affair” that first surfaced a dozen years ago. He says he expressed an “urgent concern” about Plame to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community – the same mechanism used by a whistleblower over President Trump’s conversation with the president of the Ukraine that has dominated the current news cycle.

Such complaints, created under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, are reports that allege a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, or violation of law from within the intelligence community.

Apparently nothing ever came of the complaint about Plame, however.

Dan Deyo, who says he was Plame’s “direct manager” in CIA units charged with determining if Iraq was attempting to purchase materials that could be used for weapons of mass destruction in the period before the U.S. invaded that country, is accusing Plame of perjury.

Deyo maintains in a letter he sent to the Journal that Plame presented a “false narrative” when she testified before a House committee in 2007 and denied she played a role in sending her then-husband, Joe Wilson, to Niger to gather intelligence that could be used to justify going to war with Iraq. Wilson died last week in Santa Fe.

Plame emphatically denies that she was less than truthful in her committee testimony.

“After 16 years of a war built on lies that has cost thousands of American lives, it’s despicable that apologists for the Bush Administration would continue to smear those who have spoken the truth about the Iraq War,” she said in an emailed statement.

“I barely remember working with the man who wrote this letter, and in the 12 years since my testimony, he’s never approached me with concerns. So I have no idea why he would decide, out of the blue, to lie about my integrity and make up how closely we worked together, but it’s creepy. At a time when Americans are still fighting in our forever wars, we don’t have time to give attention to conspiracy theorists and liars.”

“Valerie Plame testified, under oath, to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on March 16th, 2007, on the leak of her classified CIA identity. She testified truthfully and fully. Anything to suggest otherwise is false,” said her campaign.

Deyo, retired after a 27-year career with the CIA, but working as a counter-intelligence consultant in northern Virginia, said he is more free to speak his mind now, though he added that what he says or writes on the record is still vetted by the CIA, including his phone interview with the Journal.

“It comes down to character,” he said. “The fact that she went before Congress, and had an opportunity to set the record straight and was not candid, that was a bridge too far.”

Deyo said he wasn’t concerned about any potential conflict of interest Plame might have had over the Niger mission assigned to her husband, who had served as U.S. ambassador to two African nations as part of his 23 years with the U.S. Foreign Service.

But he said he had told her she shouldn’t have anything to do with Wilson’s mission.

“She set up meetings, wrote the cable that I released that sent the ambassador, and she brought the requirements home to her husband,” he said. “Once they sent the ambassador, she took ownership of it.”

‘Fair Game’

Plame is on record about the issues raised anew by Deyo in her memoir “Fair Game,” later made into a movie of the same name. Her campaign notes that the book was vetted by the CIA’s Publications Review Board, which mandated numerous redactions that stripe the pages of her 2007 best-seller.

“The CIA did not redact Ms. Plame’s account of the Niger affair and her lack of involvement regarding her husband. If the CIA had information and documents contrary to her testimony, they would have shared those with Congress,” the campaign statement said.

The title of the book and movie were taken from a comment Bush’s chief of staff, Karl Rove, reportedly made to journalist Chris Matthews, that Wilson’s wife was “fair game” in the dispute with the White House over an op-ed piece that Wilson wrote for the New York Times in 2003.

Titled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” Wilson wrote that “some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”

In apparent retaliation for the op-ed, Plame’s identity as a covert CIA operative was leaked by government officials, setting off a political scandal.

Scooter Libby, an adviser to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in connection with the Plame outing in 2007. President Donald Trump pardoned Libby last year.

Niger mission

Deyo said in his letter to the Journal that when the CIA was tasked with collecting additional intelligence on whether Iraq was seeking uranium “yellowcake” from Niger, Plame proposed sending out her husband, who had once served in Niger. “I looked into the offer, but demurred,” Deyo wrote.

His letter said that following receipt of more intelligence on the issue in 2002, another CIA employee approached Deyo’s manager about sending Joe Wilson to Niger. “Without consulting me,” he wrote, it was agreed to use Wilson for the mission.

Now a congressional candidate, Valerie Plame poses outside La Fonda before hosting a seminar on international espionage there last year. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“Over the next couple of weeks, Valerie played an instrumental role in organizing meetings and sending cables to secure the various Washington and field approvals to send the ambassador to Niger,” Deyo wrote. “She even delivered the intelligence requirements (detailed questions he was to attempt to answer) to him at their residence.”

The resulting report from Wilson “added nothing to the narrative of what was, or was not, going on between Iraq and Niger,” he said.

After Wilson wrote his New York Times op-ed, “In retribution Valerie’s covert CIA affiliation, and her possible role in sending her husband to Iraq, was leaked by administration officials to (journalist) Robert Novak. And a political scandal was born,” Deyo wrote.

When Plame appeared before the House Oversight committee in 2007, “she provided a false narrative in response to direct questions and was not as candid as she should have been,” Deyo maintains.

Deyo says that soon after Plame’s testimony, he submitted his memorandum of “urgent concern,” which then-CIA. Director Michael Hayden signed off on. In it, he says, he provided “four elements of Valerie’s testimony that day that were in direct contradiction to CIA records and my memory.”

He says he later heard back from the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General, relaying a message from congressional staffs, asking him what he wanted them to do about it.

“I did not reply. I did my duty and it was up to Congress to do theirs,” he says.

‘Behind my back’

Deyo denies there is a partisan motivation behind his bringing up the issue now. He downplays his political leanings, calling himself a moderate who votes for both Democrats and Republicans, though he admits he has served as adviser to the Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition and has given a couple of small donations to Republican candidates.

Deyo acknowledged that he felt Plame “went behind my back” to get Wilson sent to Niger, but he sticks to wanting New Mexicans “to know the truth” about Plame’s testimony as the reason he is raising it now.

Deyo authors articles published on the website OpsLens, which provides commentary on issues of national security and public policy. He wrote a book in 2016 titled “Legions of the East” about the Russian imperial and provisional armies during World War I.

Deyo had some good things to say about Plame in his interview with the Journal, acknowledging that she was “a good officer” and that she was clearly wronged when she was outed as a CIA agent.

Committee testimony

In the weeks and months after Plame testified to the House committee in 2007, there were articles targeting her in the National Review and the American Spectator – two politically conservative publications.

Both articles – one titled “Did Valerie Plame Wilson Tell the Truth?” and the other “Did Valerie Plame Lie?” – center on Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, a Republican from Missouri who was vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee had conducted an investigation into the leak of Plame’s identity as a CIA operative.

The articles say that Bond was taken aback by Plame’s testimony before the House committee because it didn’t jibe with the Senate committee’s investigative report.

For example, when Plame was asked directly during the House committee’s hearing whether she made the decision to send her husband to Niger, Plame answered, “No, I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him, there was no nepotism involved – I didn’t have the authority.”

But Bond claimed that Plame told his committee’s staff two years earlier “I honestly do not recall” if she had suggested her husband for the trip and that she told the CIA’s inspector general that she did recommend her husband.

Plame told the House committee that the Senate committee’s report was simply wrong. “Congressman, it’s incorrect,” she said under questioning “It’s been borne out in testimony during the Libby trial, and I can tell you that it just doesn’t square with the facts.”

Plame says in her book that when the CIA was contemplating how to verify the report about Iraq seeking to obtain yellowcake uranium from Niger, “A midlevel reports officer who had joined the discussion in the hallway enthusiastically suggested: ‘What about talking to Joe about it?’ ”

In her congressional testimony, she said the officer knew Wilson had served “well and heroically in the Baghdad Embassy” during the first Gulf War. Wilson was the last U.S. diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein, in 1991, and publicly clashed with the Iraqi dictator.

“And I will be honest,” Plame testified. “I had – was somewhat ambivalent at the time. We had 2-year-old twins at home and all I could envision was me by myself at bedtime with a couple of 2-year-olds. So I wasn’t overjoyed with this idea.”

She said she and the officer approached her supervisor who asked her to draft “a quick e-mail to the chief of our Counterproliferation Division” about the idea that Wilson might take on the mission.

“I said, ‘Of course,’ and it was that e-mail, Congressman, that was taken out of context and – a portion of which you see in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report of July 2004 – that makes it seem as though I had suggested or recommended him (Wilson).”

“And,” she also testified, “I would just like to add that certainly I had no political agenda at the time of my husband’s trip. … We were both looking to serve our country.”

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