By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Muzzling Valerie Plame

The never-ending story of Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA operative who was exposed by columnist Robert Novak in the summer of 2003, has taken another odd turn.

According to Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff, the CIA has blocked a book that Plame wants to write on the grounds that it would endanger national security. Incredibly, Plame would not even be allowed to write that she once worked for the CIA, though hundreds, if not thousands, of journalists have reported exactly that.

No doubt the so-called Plame scandal is a big, honking mess. Originally some critics of President Bush (including me) believed the White House had leaked to Novak, Matt Cooper, Judith Miller and others in order to punish Plame’s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had proclaimed in a celebrated New York Times op-ed piece that his skeptical report on Iraq’s attempts to obtain uranium from Niger had been ignored.

That theory became less likely when we learned last August — from Isikoff and David Corn of The Nation — that the original leaker was Richard Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state who’d been an internal opponent of the war in Iraq. Nor has it helped that Joe Wilson has proven less than credible (see these Daily Howler posts). Yes, Dick Cheney’s former chief aide, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, faces charges for his alleged role in outing Plame. But at this point it’s hard to believe we’ll ever get to the bottom of this.

But why censor Valerie Plame? No, a former CIA employee should not be allowed to reveal secrets if doing so would make us less safe. But this seems aimed more at stopping a book that would prove embarrassing to the Bush administration — and it calls to mind this piece of lunacy, from just a few weeks ago.

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Toward less anonymity


Too funny


  1. A.J. Cordi

    I realize that the government can obviously do whatever they want and get away with it, but how does blocking the book affect the first amendment?

  2. Vox

    That’s a move worthy of the Catholic Church.

  3. Anonymous

    Dan, I’m surprised at your take on the Armitage angle. That Armitage may have originally leaked Plame’s identity does not mean that Libby et al. were not engaged in discrediting Wilson by leaking her identity as well. It changes nothing. The identity of a covert CIA operative was leaked by White House officials for political purposes. That leak was subsequently covered up by White House officials.Get it?

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 1:03: It would appear that the first person to leak Plame’s identity — and the one to leak it to Novak, of all people — was an opponent of the war who blurted it out while engaging in idle gossip. It changes everything. Get it?

  5. Anonymous

    No, it doesn’t change anything.There was an orchestrated effort to out her as a CIA operative. The fact that someone had already leaked something to Novak doesn’t change that.

  6. Dan Kennedy

    There was an organized effort to out someone who’d already been outed. I’m all over it!

  7. Anonymous

    Outed to one person, who did not publish it immediately. When they did what they did, it was not out in public. Even if it was, for them to confirm it would still be illegal. You’re saying that because Armitage let slip to one columnist that she’s a spy means it’s okay for several White House staff to make sure numerous journalists are made aware? She’s a covert agent for the US. It was their duty to protect her identity, regardless of what Armitage said to Novak.

  8. Anonymous

    Dan,Stated another way, White House officials were *not at liberty* to discuss Plame’s status as a covert operative, regardless of whether someone at State had already spilled the beans to Novak. One does not sit around the White House and “gossip” with reporters about such matters.And they knew they were not at liberty to discuss it. That’s why they needed a coverup. And that’s what got Libby in so much trouble.

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