cover image Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House

Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House

Valerie Plame Wilson. Simon & Schuster, $26 (411pp) ISBN 978-1-4165-3761-8

The problem with this book is that it has been heavily redacted by the CIA and in parts is almost impossible to read. In order to understand Plame it helps to read journalist Laura Rozen's afterword basically a straight forward Plame biography first. Plame's story is now part of the history of the Iraq War. An undercover CIA agent, she suggested that her husband, former Iraq ambassador and Africa expert Joseph Wilsonat the urging of the vice president's office be sent to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein tried to obtain yellow cake uranium one of the Bush administration's apocalyptic talking points for the war. After he wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times called What I Did Not Find in Africa, Plame was outed as a CIA operative by columnist Robert Novak. [She was fair game according to Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist.] In a drawn out melodrama, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald rounded up the usual Beltway suspects (Rove, Ari Fleischer, Matt Cooper, Judy Miller etc.) before a grand jury, but eventually Lewis I. (Scooter) Libby, VP Cheney's chief-of-staff, was the only one sentenced in the case for perjury and obstruction of justice (which was soon commuted by Bush). Plame's personal nightmare began with Bush's 2003 State of the Union address when the president declared the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa the 16 famous words which directly contradicted Wilson's Niger findings. When Condoleezza Rice denied on Meet the Press that anyone in the White House knew that the Niger pancake uranium stories were untrue, Plame says it was the last straw for her husband and he wrote his Times piece. Although the cast of villains in Plamegate is now legendary, a new one emerges in Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, and then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Working closely with Cheney, Roberts did a lot of the White House's political bidding and made life particularly uneasy for the Wilsons by a careful distortion of the facts before the 2004 presidential election. Kudos go to special prosecutor Fitzgerald (highly intelligent, compassionate person) and barbs go to Judith Miller of the New York Times (I distrusted her reporting in articles she had written in the run-up the war). Plame relates a bizarre chance meeting with Matt Cooper of Time magazine, then under Fitzgerald's screws who asked Wilson Could you do something for me? to ask the judge for leniency. Plame says the whole First Amendment fight with Miller and Cooper was the Pentagon Papers or Watergate turned on its head...These reporters were allowing themselves to be exploited by the administration and were obstructing the investigation. It didn't make much ethical sense to me. Plame also has harsh words for the Washington Post and its editorial writer Fred Hiatt: I suddenly understood what it must have felt like to live in the Soviet Union and have only the state propaganda entity, Pravda, as the source of news about the world. She continues to batter the press at what came out at the Libby trial, which showed how eagerly [journalists] accept spoon fed information from official sources...The trial did not show American journalism at its finest hour. Although Plame guards her personal life with Wilson, she is blunt in acknowledging that the controversy surrounding them put a strain on their marriage, which seemed balanced on a knife's edge. There was apparently resentment on Wilson's part that his CIA wife could not defend him against some of the attacks: He deeply resented that I had not adequately come to his defense. When Wilson asked her Why are you choosing the Agency and your career over your marriage? it forced her to rethink her marriage and led to a reconciliation. She also reveals the intimate details of her post-partum depression which followed the birth of her twins in 2000. Plame seems paranoid about events that have happened to her. Was an IRS audit normal or was it triggered by something else? Why did the bolts on a brand new deck suddenly come out? And why did the CIA almost scuttle her book through censorship. [In one of the great ironies of the book, the part about the redactions is heavily redacted.] Plame asks: Was the White House also responsible for the stalling of my book? The book reveals little not already known about Plamegate although it would have been interesting to see what would have been the result without the massive redactions of the CIA.