Plame at the 2014 Texas Book Festival
|Born||Valerie Elise Plame
August 13, 1963
Anchorage, Alaska, U.S.
|Occupation||Writer, Spy Novelist, CIA officer (1985–2006)|
|Alma mater||Pennsylvania State University (B.A., Advertising, 1985)
College of Europe (M.A.)
London School of Economics (M.A.)
|Genre||Autobiography, memoir, political criticism|
|Notable works||Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House|
|Spouse||Todd Sesler (m. 1987; divorce 1989)
Joseph C. Wilson (m. 1998)
|Children||2 (with Wilson)|
Valerie Elise Plame Wilson (née Plame; born August 13, 1963), known as Valerie Plame, Valerie E. Wilson, and Valerie Plame Wilson, is an American writer, spy novelist and former operations officer working at the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). As the subject of the 2003 Plame affair, also known as the CIA leak scandal, Plame had her identity as covert officer of the CIA leaked to the press by members of the George W. Bush administration and subsequently made public. In collaboration with a ghostwriter, Plame wrote a memoir detailing her career and the events leading up to her resignation from the CIA, and subsequently wrote and published two spy novels.
After a number of years out of the limelight, she later made the news for leading a campaign to raise enough money to buy a controlling interest of Twitter stock, in order to remove Donald Trump from the platform, as well as controversy surrounding antisemitic activity on social media, for which she subsequently apologized.
Valerie Elise Plame was born on August 13, 1963, on Elmendorf Air Force Base, in Anchorage, Alaska, to Diane (née McClintock) and Samuel Plame III. Plame's paternal grandfather was Jewish, the son of a rabbi who emigrated from Ukraine; the original family surname was "Plamevotski". The rest of Plame's family was Protestant (the religion in which Plame was raised); she was unaware of her grandfather having been Jewish until she was an adult.
She graduated in 1981 from Lower Moreland High School, in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, and attended Pennsylvania State University, graduating with a B.A. in advertising in 1985. While a student at Penn State, she joined Pi Beta Phi sorority and worked for the business division of the Daily Collegian student newspaper.
After graduating with a B.A. in advertising from Penn State in 1985, Plame was married to Todd Sesler, her college boyfriend. In 1997, while she was working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Plame met former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, IV, "at a reception in Washington "..." at the residence of the Turkish Ambassador." According to Wilson, because Plame was unable to reveal her CIA role to him on their first date, she told him that she was an energy trader in Brussels, and he thought at that time that she was "an up-and-coming international executive." After they began dating and became "close," Plame revealed her employment with the CIA to Wilson. They were married on April 3, 1998, Plame's second marriage and Wilson's third.
Professionally and socially, she has used variants of her name. Professionally, while a covert CIA officer, she used her given first name and her maiden surname, "Valerie Plame." Since leaving the CIA, as a speaker, she has used the name "Valerie Plame Wilson", and she is referred to by that name in the civil suit that the Wilsons brought against former and current government officials, Wilson v. Libby. Socially, and in public records of her political contributions, since her marriage in 1998, she has used the name "Valerie E. Wilson."
At the time that they met, Wilson relates in his memoir, he was separated from his second wife Jacqueline; they divorced after 12 years of marriage so that he could marry Plame. His divorce had been "delayed because I was never in one place long enough to complete the process," though he and she had already been living separate lives since the mid-1990s. Plame and Wilson are the parents of twins, Trevor Rolph, and Samantha Finnell Diana, born in January 2000. From his first marriage (1973–86), to Susan Dale Otchis, Wilson is also the father of another set of twins (also a boy and a girl), Sabrina Cecile and Joseph Charles, who were born in 1979.
Prior to the disclosure of her classified CIA identity, Valerie and Joe Wilson and their twins lived in The Palisades, a neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on the fringe of Georgetown. After she resigned from the CIA following the disclosure of her covert status, in January 2006, they moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where she serves as a consultant to the Santa Fe Institute. In a 2011 interview, Plame said she and Wilson had received threats while living in the D.C. metro area, and while she acknowledged an element of threat remains in their new home, the New Mexico location "tamps down the whole swirl."
After graduating from college, moving to Washington, D.C., and marrying Sesler, Plame worked at a clothing store while awaiting results of her application to the CIA. She was accepted into the 1985–86 CIA officer training class and began her training for what became a twenty-year career with the Agency. Although the CIA will not publicly release the specific dates of Plame's employment from 1985 to 2002 due to security concerns, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald affirmed that Plame "was a CIA officer from January 1, 2002, forward" and that "her association with the CIA was classified at that time through July 2003. Details about Plame's professional career are still classified, but it is documented that she worked for the CIA in a Non-official cover capacity relating to counter-proliferation.
Plame served the CIA at times as a non-official cover (or NOC), operating undercover in (at least) two positions in Athens and Brussels. While using her own name, "Valerie Plame", her assignments required posing in various professional roles in order to gather intelligence more effectively. Two of her covers include serving as a junior consular officer in the early 1990s in Athens and then later an energy analyst for the private company (founded in 1994) "Brewster Jennings & Associates," which the CIA later acknowledged was a front company for certain investigations. However, others have stated that she did not have covert status, and worked at the CIA as an analyst.
A former senior diplomat in Athens remembered Plame in her dual role and also recalled that she served as one of the "control officers" coordinating the visit of President George H. W. Bush to Greece and Turkey in July 1991. After the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the CIA sent her first to the London School of Economics and then the College of Europe, in Bruges, for Master's degrees. After earning the second degree, she stayed on in Brussels, where she began her next assignment under cover as an "energy consultant" for Brewster-Jennings. Beginning in 1997, Plame's primary assignment was shifted to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
She married Wilson in 1998 and gave birth to their twins in 2000, and resumed travel overseas in 2001, 2002, and 2003 as part of her cover job. She met with workers in the nuclear industry, cultivated sources, and managed spies. One project in which she was involved was ensuring that Iran did not acquire nuclear weapons.
During this time, part of her work concerned the determination of the use of aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq. CIA analysts prior to the Iraq invasion were quoted by the White House as believing that Iraq was trying to acquire nuclear weapons and that these aluminum tubes could be used in a centrifuge for nuclear enrichment. David Corn and Michael Isikoff argued that the undercover work being done by Plame and her CIA colleagues in the Directorate of Central Intelligence Nonproliferation Center strongly contradicted such a claim. However, the CIA was concerned enough to send Plame's husband, Joseph C. Wilson, to Niger in 2002 to investigate the potential sale of nuclear materials from Niger to Iraq.
On July 14, 2003, Robert Novak, journalist for The Washington Post, using information obtained from Richard Armitage at the United States Department of State, effectively ended Valerie Plame's career with the CIA (from which she later resigned in December 2005) by revealing in his column her identity as a CIA operative. Legal documents published in the course of the CIA leak grand jury investigation, United States v. Libby, and Congressional investigations, established her classified employment as a covert officer for the CIA at the time when Novak's column was published in July 2003.
In his press conference of October 28, 2005, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald explained in considerable detail the necessity of secrecy about his grand jury investigation that began in the fall of 2003 — "when it was clear that Valerie Wilson's cover had been blown" — and the background and consequences of the indictment of then high-ranking Bush Administration official Scooter Libby as it pertains to Valerie E. Wilson.
Fitzgerald's subsequent replies to reporters' questions shed further light on the parameters of the leak investigation and what, as its lead prosecutor, bound by the rules of grand jury secrecy, he could and could not reveal legally at the time. Official court documents released later, on April 5, 2006, reveal that Libby testified that "he was specifically authorized in advance" of his meeting with Judith Miller, reporter for The New York Times, to disclose the "key judgments" of the October 2002 classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). According to Libby's testimony, "the Vice President later advised him that the President had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE [to Judith Miller]." According to his testimony, the information that Libby was authorized to disclose to Miller "was intended to rebut the allegations of an administration critic, former ambassador Joseph Wilson." A couple of days after Libby's meeting with Miller, then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told reporters, "We don't want to try to get into kind of selective declassification" of the NIE, adding, "We're looking at what can be made available." A "sanitized version" of the NIE in question was officially declassified on July 18, 2003, ten days after Libby's contact with Miller, and was presented at a White House background briefing on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. The NIE contains no references to Valerie Plame or her CIA status, but the Special Counsel has suggested that White House actions were part of "a plan to discredit, punish or seek revenge against Mr. Wilson." President Bush had previously indicated that he would fire whomever had outed Plame.
A court filing by Libby's defense team argued that Plame was not foremost in the minds of administration officials as they sought to rebut charges – made by her husband – that the White House manipulated intelligence to make a case for invasion. The filing indicated that Libby's lawyers did not intend to say that he was told to reveal Plame's identity. The court filing also stated that "Mr. Libby plans to demonstrate that the indictment is wrong when it suggests that he and other government officials viewed Ms. Wilson's role in sending her husband to Africa as important," indicating that Libby's lawyers planned to call Karl Rove to the stand. Fitzgerald ultimately decided against pressing charges against Rove.
The five-count indictment of Libby included perjury (two counts), obstruction of justice (one count), and making false statements to federal investigators (two counts). There was, however, no count for disclosing classified information, i.e., Plame's status as a CIA operative. Indeed, it was already widely known (even by prosecutor Fitzgerald) that the actual "leaker" was Richard Armitage, via columnist Robert Novak. No evidence has ever come to light that Mr. Libby disclosed Plame's CIA status to Mr. Novak.
On March 6, 2007, Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice, making false statements, and two counts of perjury. He was acquitted on one count of making false statements. He was not charged for revealing Plame's CIA status. His sentence included a $250,000 fine, 30 months in prison and two years of probation. On July 2, 2007, President George W. Bush commuted Libby's sentence, removing the jail term but leaving in place the fine and probation, calling the sentence "excessive." In a subsequent press conference, on July 12, 2007, Bush noted, "...the Scooter Libby decision was, I thought, a fair and balanced decision." The Wilsons responded to the commutation in statements posted by their legal counsel, Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and on their own legal support website.
On July 13, 2006, Joseph and Valerie Wilson filed a civil lawsuit against Rove, Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other unnamed senior White House officials (to whom they later added Richard Armitage) for their alleged role in the public disclosure of Valerie Wilson's classified CIA status. Judge John D. Bates dismissed the Wilsons' lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds on July 19, 2007; the Wilsons appealed. On August 12, 2008, in a 2-1 decision, the three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the dismissal. Melanie Sloan, of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which represents the Wilsons, "said the group will request the full D.C. Circuit to review the case and appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court." Agreeing with the Bush administration, the Obama Justice Department argued the Wilsons have no legitimate grounds to sue. On the current justice department position, Sloan stated: "We are deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has failed to recognize the grievous harm top Bush White House officials inflicted on Joe and Valerie Wilson. The government's position cannot be reconciled with President Obama's oft-stated commitment to once again make government officials accountable for their actions."
On March 8, 2007, two days after the verdict in the Libby trial, Congressman Henry Waxman, chair of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced that his committee would ask Plame to testify on March 16, in an effort by his committee to look into "whether White House officials followed appropriate procedures for safeguarding Plame's identity."
On March 16, 2007, at these hearings about the disclosure, Waxman read a statement about Plame's CIA career that had been cleared by CIA director Gen. Michael V. Hayden and the CIA, stating that she was undercover and that her employment status with the CIA was classified information prohibited from disclosure under Executive Order 12958.
Subsequent reports in various news accounts focused on the following parts of her testimony:
Plame's husband Joseph Wilson announced on March 6, 2007, that the couple had "signed a deal with Warner Bros of Hollywood to offer their consulting services — or maybe more — in the making of the forthcoming movie about the Libby trial," their lives and the CIA leak scandal. The feature film, a co-production between Weed Road's Akiva Goldsman and Jerry and Janet Zucker of Zucker Productions with a screenplay by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth to be based in part on Valerie Wilson's memoir Fair Game (contingent on CIA clearances) originally scheduled for release in August 2007, but ultimately published on October 22, 2007.
In May 2006, the New York Times reported that Valerie Wilson agreed to a $2.5-million book deal with Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. Steve Ross, senior vice president and publisher of Crown, told the Times that the book would be her "first airing of her actual role in the American intelligence community, as well as the prominence of her role in the lead-up to the war." Subsequently, the New York Times reported that the book deal fell through and that Plame was in exclusive negotiations with Simon & Schuster. Ultimately, Simon and Schuster publicly confirmed the book deal, though not the financial terms and, at first, no set publication date.
On May 31, 2007, various news media reported that Simon and Schuster and Valerie Wilson were suing J. Michael McConnell, Director of National Intelligence, and Michael V. Hayden, Director of the CIA, arguing that the CIA "is unconstitutionally interfering with the publication of her memoir, Fair Game, ... set to be published in October , by not allowing Plame to mention the dates that she served in the CIA." Judge Barbara S. Jones, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, in Manhattan, interpreted the issue in favor of the CIA. Therefore, the ruling stated that Plame would not be able to describe in her memoir the precise dates she had worked for the CIA. In 2009, the federal court of appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed Judge Jones's ruling.
On October 31, 2007, in her interview with Charlie Rose broadcast on The Charlie Rose Show, Valerie Wilson discussed many aspects relating to her memoir: the CIA leak grand jury investigation; United States v. Libby, the civil suit which she and her husband were at the time still pursuing against Libby, Cheney, Rove, and Armitage; and other matters presented in her memoir relating to her covert work with the CIA.
The film, Fair Game, was released November 5, 2010, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. It is based on two books, one written by Plame, and the other by her husband. The Washington Post described the movie as being "full of distortions - not to mention outright inventions".
In May 2011, it was announced that Plame would write a series of spy novels with mystery writer Sarah Lovett. The first book in the series, titled Blowback, was released on October 1, 2013, by Blue Rider Press, an imprint of the Penguin Group.
In August 2017, Wilson set up a GoFundMe fundraising page in an attempt to buy a majority interest in Twitter and kick U.S. President Donald Trump off of the network. She launched her campaign because she believes that Donald Trump 'emboldens white supremacists' and encourages 'violence against journalists'.
Titled "Let's #BuyTwitter and #BanTrump", she set the campaign's goal to $1 billion. The money from the campaign will be used to buy a controlling share of Twitter, or exploring options for buying a significant stake in the company. If the campaign fails or if there is any surplus, she said that a 100% of the balance of proceeds will be donated to Global Zero, a nonprofit organization leading the resistance to nuclear war. She later stated that such a move would not be in violation of the First Amendment. Her campaign succeeded in garnering wide-spread international media coverage and in raising $88,000.
In September 2017, Plame promoted an article on Twitter posted by a retired CIA agent, titled "America's Jews Are Driving America's Wars", repeating the statement, "America's Jews Are Driving America's Wars", in her own tweet. The article argued that "American Jews who lack any shred of integrity" should be given a special label when appearing on television. Amid criticism, Plame first repeatedly defended her posts, insisting on Twitter that "Many neocon hawks ARE Jewish." She eventually apologized, blaming her posting of the article in part on her dog. Some have argued that the incident followed a pattern of posting such content and making jokes about "rich Jews". She had promoted at least 8 articles from the same website before, in which she previously promoted conspiracy theories of 'dancing Israelis' being behind the 9/11 attacks. David Duke, who had previously defended her, said it was “sad” that she was “forced to apologize.”
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