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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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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.
From Publishers Weekly
The problem with this book is that it has been heavily redacted by the CIAand in parts is almost impossible to read. In order to understand Plame it helps to read journalist Laura Rozen's afterwordbasically a straightforward Plame biographyfirst.
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 officebe sent to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein tried to obtain yellowcake uraniumone 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 screwswho 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 Plamegatealthough it would have been interesting to see what would have been the result without the massive redactions of the CIA.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Two solid Americans were doing their duty--one, Valerie Plame, as a covert operative for the CIA and the other, her husband Joe WIlson, having served as an ambassador for the State Department--are used as political fodder because the contents of a report Joe Wilson wrote failed to support the political agenda of those occupying the White House.
White House operatives at the highest levels worked behind the scenes--often using members of the media too desperate for sensationalized stories--to destroy the careers and lives of both Valerie Plame and her husband Joe WIlson.
Much of the story has been played out in the media but hearing it directly from Valerie Plame is a part of the story that seems to have been missing from the news stories.
While the book is interesting, it became very distracting on the CDs to listen to the bleeped out sections of her text that were redacted by the CIA. Even though there's an independent explanation at the end delineating these redactions that Ms. Plame could not legally include, it was distracting nonetheless. Even with the CIA finally stepping in to protect some of their own (after throwing her under the bus), I would have thought there might be a way to amend the text to get most of the message across without the bleeps on the CDs or the blacked out sections in the book.
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.
What is incontrovertible is that Mrs. Wilson, daughter of an Air Force colonel and sister of a marine did render years of loyal service to the defense of the United States, in return for which she has seen her career ended and her reputation smeared, all for political ends in the service of an agenda that was wrongheaded both at the time and in retrospect, all of which brings to mind the iconic words of Joseph Welch: "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" The answer is a tragic no.
On a final note, to avoid confusion readers should begin with Laura Rozen's afterwards to the book which reviews the public record and all of the details that are available, but which the CIA insisted Mrs. Wilson could not write.
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.