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Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House Hardcover – October 22, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 411 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Simon & Schuster Hardcover Ed edition (October 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416537619
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416537618
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #515,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On July 6, 2003, four months after the United States invaded Iraq, former ambassador Joseph Wilson's now historic op-ed, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," appeared in The New York Times. A week later, conservative pundit Robert Novak revealed in his newspaper column that Ambassador Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was a CIA operative. The public disclosure of that secret information spurred a federal investigation and led to the trial and conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, and the Wilsons' civil suit against top officials of the Bush administration. Much has been written about the "Valerie Plame" story, but Valerie herself has been silent, until now. Some of what has been reported about her has been frighteningly accurate, serving as a pungent reminder to the Wilsons that their lives are no longer private. And some has been completely false--distorted characterizations of Valerie and her husband and their shared integrity.

Valerie Wilson retired from the CIA in January 2006, and now, not only as a citizen but as a wife and mother, the daughter of an Air Force colonel, and the sister of a U.S. marine, she sets the record straight, providing an extraordinary account of her training and experiences, and answers many questions that have been asked about her covert status, her responsibilities, and her life. As readers will see, the CIA still deems much of the detail of Valerie's story to be classified. As a service to readers, an afterword by national security reporter Laura Rozen provides a context for Valerie's own story.

Fair Game is the historic and unvarnished account of the personal and international consequences of speaking truth to power.

Read the First Chapter from Fair Game

Joining the CIA
Our group of five--three men and two women--trekked through an empty tract of wooded land and swamp, known in CIA terms as the "Farm." It was 4 a.m. and we had been on the move all night. Having practiced escape and evasion from an ostensible hostile force--our instructors--we were close to meeting up with our other classmates. Together we would attack the enemy, then board a helicopter to safety. This exercise, called the final assault, was the climax of our paramilitary training. Each of us carried eighty-pound backpacks, filled with essential survival gear: tents, freeze-dried food, tablets to purify drinking water, and 5.56 mm ammunition for our M-16s. The late fall weather was bitter, and slimy water sloshed in our combat boots. A blister on my heel radiated little jabs of stinging pain. My friend Pete, a former Army officer, usually ready with a wisecrack and a smirk, hadn't spoken in hours, while John, our resident beer guzzler, carried not only his backpack but at least fifty extra pounds of body weight. His round face was covered with mud and sweat.

Read the Publisher's Note and First Chapter from Fair Game

From Publishers Weekly

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 straightforward 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 Wilson—at the urging of the vice president's office—be sent to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein tried to obtain yellowcake 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 a 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.

Customer Reviews

I luckily got the book from the library.
Designating Valerie Plame Wilson as "fair game" in their efforts to continue justification of the war against Iraq reveals the breadth of their lack of justice!
Frank S. Moyer
I understand why parts were blocked out, but it made it hard to figure out what was really going on.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By EddieLove on October 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
While the book certainly makes the case that Plame was a covert operative who was wronged by the administration, I think what makes it most interesting can be appreciated by anyone outside of their political leanings. We get a candid portrait of what it's like in the center of one of these media storms and Plame offers up plenty of detail on the toll this affair took on herself and her marriage. People should be outraged.

The large section of redacted passages are tough to get around -- I wish the material included at the end could have been inserted as footnotes throughout so the reader doesn't have to jump back and forth.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Sweet D on September 22, 2008
Format: Paperback
This isn't a spy-intrigue-action book, so please don't expect it to be. It's Valerie Plame Wilson's story about ow she happened to become a CIA agent, what it took to reach the levels in the institution that she did. How the scandal started who was and wasn't involved. She explains how the government managed to touch every part of her being to her personal life, social life, professional life, motherhood, finances, you name it. It's a good book, and one American's should read. Especially approaching this 2008 election.
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156 of 184 people found the following review helpful By J. A Magill VINE VOICE on October 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As is ever the case with books on controversial topics, particular those political, reviews of Mrs. Plame Wilson's book has attracted countless reviews, often from those who one must suspect have not read the book. Indeed, time and again one sees reviews which make assertions patently false such as that Mrs. Wilson was not undercover (the Judge in the Libby case, Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald, and CIA Director General Hayden have all made plain that she was), or that her husband Joseph Wilson was not an ambassador (again, he was, to Gabon). Yet such attempts by individuals to create their own facts has little bearing on what Mrs. Wilson's book offers.

There is little new here in terms of the facts of the case of Robert Novak's "outing" of Mrs. Wilson which could not be found in the court record or a simple Lexus search. This perhaps more than anything makes the frequent redactions (demanded by the CIA and published in the volume as black lines) so patently absurd; time and again matters clearly part of the public record are removed, a penchant for privacy that should give every American citizen pause. That said, Mrs. Wilson writes with gusto and given her silence up until now, one must acknowledge a certain satisfaction in seeing her get her piece.

More than anything this is a highly person memoir, recounting - to the degree the CIA's over busy redactors allowed - her years of service as well as the trauma she and her husband Ambassador Joseph Wilson were forced to endure. While this book offers little new for the record of events, it does give a window into the damage done by those at the eye of the storm. I can only scratch my head in wonder at how many people have continued to sharpen their long knives after Mrs. Wilson's savage treatment.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Will S. on December 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a really fascinating look at how politics became a battlefront in the war on intelligence. Wilson's role in assisting the CIA becomes a firestorm with repercussions that surround the globe. This is an amazing look at what the toll of speaking up took, and should be a call for all Americans, of all political leanings, to stop, look past party loyalties, and question everything, even it it comes from your own candidate. I found the additional section at the end very helpful for filling in those blank pages. For anyone who is questioning this story you need to ask yourself, what were they going to gain by making this stuff up? Thank you Valerie for speaking up. You've made many Americans more determined to be forthright and honest.
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259 of 334 people found the following review helpful By Elliven on October 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'd avidly followed Valerie Plame's nightmare, so I knew a lot about the story and the various players involved. But it was so interesting to be able to peek behind the scenes and see what it was like for Valerie personally: As a mother of young children, as a woman, as a professional who put her life on the line for her country. A fascinating read.

Now that's my opinion, of course, and you're free to disagree. But if you're going to bash this book in a review, please make sure you actually READ it first. It is obvious that some of the reviewers here have not done so. The purpose of the review section is to give potential buyers an idea of the book being sold, not to advance one's political views.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By JackoH on December 23, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book actually started out pretty good. It would have been 100% better if the "feds" hadn't censored it. Some of the chapters had the majority of the pages blanked out. However, it did give an insight into the world of working for the CIA, FBI, etc. If I had known that many of the pages were blanked out, I would have passed on buying the book.
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37 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 16, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Another recorded book..and another comment that it's not my favorite medium as I have too few specfics to refer to.

The first portion of the book is autobiographicalesqe. (!) Val talks about her time in the "Farm," her early tenure in the CIA, etc. It's interesting, and she does include items of dubious ethicality of the Bush administration. (You'll recall that's what put her on the map, that someone had exposed her role with the agency, as a vendetta for her husband's revealing that the Niger uranium scare was a bad hoax.)

That part of the book was okay. But, frankly, there's a little too much name dropping to make me comfortable. Might I do the same if I were in such a position? Maybe. But that she's met Tim Robbins is inconsequential, and I'd rather the author not include what could be construed as tabloid news.

The second half of the book, the "afterward," is actually of more substance. It's simply a narrative of the whole experience, including the CIA's activities--and what one may infer as their negative influence on our foreign policy. I remember a little about the US relationship with Greece, for example, only because many years ago I spent some time with some Greek expatriots. They told me of the what purported to be a democracy there, in reality a military junta with a ghastly human rights record. What a surprise, they were a US ally.

In short, if you have time, you might want to read the book, and learn a little. But it's not one I'd put on the top of my list.
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