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Old 03-16-2007, 02:13 PM   #1
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Valerie Plame Has Her Say

Publicly, the White House reminds the world that America and its allies must "win the war on terror." Privately, and illegally, the White House blows the cover of a CIA agent and jeopardizes national security. Could the irony be any thicker?

At Hearing, Plame Rebukes Bush Administration

CIA Operative Says Her Cover Was 'Recklessly' Abused

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 16, 2007; 2:24 PM

Valerie Plame, the CIA officer whose leaked identity triggered a federal investigation that reached into the White House, today publicly refuted claims that she was not a covert employee and accused the White House and State Department of "carelessly and recklessly" destroying her cover for political purposes.

In sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Plame described publicly for the first time the circumstances that brought her to the attention of senior Bush administration officials and the effect that the leak of her CIA employment and identity had on her.

"I felt like I had been hit in the gut," Plame said of the moment she learned her name and agency affiliation had been published in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert D. Novak. The conservative columnist attributed the information to two senior administration officials, who were later identified in court as Richard L. Armitage, then the deputy secretary of state, and Karl Rove, a senior adviser to President Bush who currently serves as his deputy chief of staff.

"I could no longer perform the work for which I had been highly trained," the willowy blonde former CIA officer told the committee. "I could no longer travel overseas or do the work . . . which I loved. It was done."

Plame also testified that she played no part in deciding to send her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, on a mission to Niger in 2002 to assess the reliability of reports that Iraq's then-president, Saddam Hussein, was trying to buy yellowcake uranium from that country for use in a secret nuclear weapons program. Wilson found that the reports were baseless, but the information nevertheless made its way into Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech. Wilson later went public with strong criticism, writing in a newspaper opinion piece that the White House was twisting intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.

In what a federal prosecutor described as an effort to discredit Wilson, top administration officials leaked the information that Plame was Wilson's wife and worked at the CIA in the counterproliferation division. The suggestion was that nepotism had been involved in the decision to send Wilson to Niger and that his fact-finding trip was a boondoggle that need not be taken seriously.

The leak resulted in a CIA complaint, which in turn led to a two-year investigation culminating in the trial of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. The special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, did not charge anyone with violating federal law by leaking Plame's identity but went after Libby for lying to federal agents and a grand jury and thus obstructing the probe. Libby was found guilty March 6 on four of five counts. His lawyers continued to maintain his innocence, saying they would seek a new trial or appeal the verdict.

Plame, 43, who introduced herself to the House Oversight Committee as Valerie Plame Wilson, testified that she served as "a covert operations office for the Central Intelligence Agency" before the leak and that her "affiliation with the CIA was classified." She said she helped manage "secret worldwide operations" against Iraq's presumed weapons of mass destruction program from CIA headquarters and "traveled to foreign countries on secret missions to find vital intelligence."

Her employment "was not common knowledge on the Georgetown cocktail circuit," she said. "But all of my efforts on behalf of the national security of the United States, all of my training, all the value of my years of service, were abruptly ended when my name and identity were exposed irresponsibly."

Plame said she was "shocked by the evidence that emerged" in the Libby trial about the leaking of her identify.

"My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department," she testified. "All of them understood that I worked for the CIA. And, having signed oaths to protect national security secrets, they should have been diligent in protecting me and every CIA officer."

She said the harm done by blowing a CIA cover is "grave," but that she could not provide details in her case. In general, she said, such breaches have endangered CIA officers, destroyed networks of foreign agents and discouraged others from trusting the U.S. government to protect them.

"We in the CIA always know that we might be exposed and threatened by foreign enemies," Plame said. "It was a terrible irony that administration officials were the ones who destroyed my cover." She added that testimony in the Libby trial "indicates that my exposure arose from purely political motives."

In an opening statement, the committee chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), said the purpose of the hearing was to determine how the leak of Plame's identity occurred, whether the White House took appropriate investigative and disciplinary steps afterward and what changes are needed to prevent a recurrence.

"It's not our job to determine criminal culpability, but it is our job to understand what went wrong and to insist on accountability and to make recommendations . . . to avoid future abuses," he said.

Waxman and other Democrats on the committee rebutted charges by the Bush administration's defenders that Plame was not in covert status at the time her name was leaked and did not have a sensitive position at the CIA.

"Any characterization that minimizes the personal risk of Ms. Wilson that she accepted in her assignments is flatly wrong," Waxman said. "There should be no confusion on this point." He said her work was so sensitive that she is still prohibited by the CIA from publicly discussing many details of it. Plame has since resigned from the agency.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), the top Republican on the committee, said the leak of Plame's identity "was wrong," but he questioned whether the hearing would accomplish anything.

"It's a terrible thing that any CIA operative would be outed," he said later. However, there is no evidence that anyone who leaked her name "had any idea that she was a covert agent," he asserted.

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Old 03-16-2007, 06:29 PM   #2
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Privately, and illegally, the White House blows the cover of a CIA agent and jeopardizes national security
Libbey did not out her. He broke no law concerning Plame.
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