Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fair Game - Book Review

Fair Game
by Valerie Plame Wilson
Simon & Schuster October 2007

This is the biography (memoir) of Valerie Plame, a CIA employee whose identity was made public by the US government. Plame attended PSU - Pennsylvania State University and was recruited to the CIA in 1985. She describe the training she had to undergo. Most of the details are there but some specifics are redacted.

Plame's identity was leaked to the media precisely because her husband (Joe Wilson) refused to tell the Bush administration what they wanted to hear - that Iraq had purchased Uranium yellowcake from Niger in 2003. Wilsons report said that the purchase never happened.

Bush was not happy about this. He wanted an excuse to topple Saddam Hussein. So he ignored the CIA's reports (the NIE) that said that Iraq did not have WMD. Bush was emphatic that Iraq did have WMD. In March 2003, the USA invaded Iraq.

The CIA had this policy that under cover officers (and Plame had been an undercover officer in a US embassy in Europe during he 1990's) identities were forever after sacrasanct to the CIA and those identities would never be revealed.

Until 2003 when Plame was outed.

It is believed that it was Carl Rove who mentioned it to a journalist first. Then her name and her CIA employment were mentioned in a Washington Post column in connection with Wilson's negative report.

It was another 6 years before Plame eventually was forced to leave the CIA. During those 6 years her marriage went through the wringer and was nearly destroyed. Many of the Wilsons friends rejected them because she was "a spy" and had never told them. Her cover had always been an executive of a small energy company in Europe.

The Wilsons and their children moved to South East USA.

The really weird thing about this book, is that even though a fair chunk of Plame's CIA life is out in public - such as the countries she worked in and the years she was there - the CIA has this very strict policy of never allowing names of countries and years of service to be mentioned in a book.

So when Plame sat down to write her book, she knew that it would have to be censored by the CIA. She just didnt realise that they would redact (or censor) large chunks of it.

This is what the book actually looks like. On almost every page there were grey lines like this. On some pages that grey covered 2 or more entire pages. In fact one complete chapter was all grey.

Fortunately and precisely because there was a lot of information already out there in public, a epilogue has been attached to the book that tells Plame's real story and mentions the specific countries where she worked, and also the dates of service she worked there. This epilogue was added to fill in the holes. It actually does help to read it first.

Below are some links for more information

Valerie talks of future
Penn State University February 2008
There is also a timeline for easier understanding.

Her Identity Revealed, Her Story Expurgated
NY Times October 2007

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