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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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"Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)" by David Sedaris
In one of the most anticipated books of 2017, David Sedaris tells a story that is, literally, a lifetime in the making. Pre-order today
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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
I was outside the U.S. When most of these events took place so didn't follow it too well. Now, I only feel outrage about how nasty politics and government can be. What happened to Valerie Plame Wilson is out and out treason in my way of thinking, Hurtful not only to her but to the entire nation as well. And Bush, Cheney and cronies got away with it all unscathed for the most part. Sickening.
A real injustice was done here. I'm from the Vietnam era, and Vietnam made me lose faith and confidence in the American government. What happened in the Plame-Wilson case does nothing to restore that faith. I still love my country but will always feel mistrustful of government.
Ironically all is not lost by the cunning inclusion of Laura Rozen's eighty page"afterword" which fills in lots of the gaps in a gripping narrative from information already in the public domain that the CIA disingenuously thought it had censored.Had it not been for Rozen's contribution this book would have failed.
Why an quintessential ivy league woman would want to join an agency steeped in the most deplorable acts of human behaviour, including murder, torture, summary arrest and mass killing, is beyond me, but then I guess blind jingoism in the USA is in the DNA.of its citizens.How the Bush administration reacted to Plame,is ample evidence of this reality.
This book is stunning, both in terms of what Ms. Plame wrote, but also in terms of how much the CIA redacted from it. Ms. Plame and publisher decided to leave blank spaces where the words were that the CIA objected to. In some cases I can guess what they were hiding, but in other cases, there was no obvious reason for the CIA obliterating her book other than pure spite on behalf of folks who would be embarrassed. But remember, Ms. Plame was a "deep cover" CIA agent working on nuclear proliferation issues in the mid-east, and Dick Cheney blew her cover. He should have been tried and jailed for his treacherous actions.
There are some excellent books by former CIA agents and appointed personnel. A very long book that I'd recommend is the biographical one by George Tenet: At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. Tenet explains the politics associated with intelligence from the highest levels. He shows how intelligence is shaped by politics in the real world, not the other way around as in textbooks.
I highly recommend all of Robert Baer's books, especially: See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism. Baer shows how the real agents operate far from home and with high professionalism and sacrifice that you can't find at headquarters (to be honest, not critical).
The most entertaining CIA biography in my opinion is that of Antonio Mendez: The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA. Mendez was a tradecraft guru.
Fortunately, there are a lot of good books available to understand how intelligence agencies operate and in particular to know the kind of sacrifices made by the agents and operatives.
Perhaps the worst of the worst are those in the CIA who did not resign in protest when she was 'outed' or when Libby was pardoned by Bush. And to have Tenant get a special award from Bush is just some more salt in a national wound. But the most important
lesson of this book is to show how raw intelligence is being twisted by successive federal administrations to meet pre-conceived
goals of national military-industrial strategy. I am happy that the movie was such a success.