Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Wilson & Wife's Idea of "Going Undercover"

It's been a while since former ambassador Joseph Wilson lashed out at the Bush administration after columnist Robert Novak "outing" of his wife, Valerie Plame. In Novak's column, a "senior White House staff member" named Plame as a CIA field agent: Robert Novak's Column of 14 July 2003. At the time, Novak did not directly name or divulge the location of his source, and Novak has since denied Wilson's assertions that a White House staff member had leaked the story. Not that any of this matters to Wilson & WifeRobert Novak's Column of 1 October 2003

Former ambassador Wilson, obviously upset at no longer being a member of DC's "Those That Matter" club, has up 'til now claimed that his wife "would rather cut off her arm at the elbow" than be exposed for her activities while undercover. Valerie Plame, an attractive forty-something blonde mother of young twins, was a member of the recent CIA team that went to Lagos, Nigeria to either substantiate or disprove the story that Nigeria had supplied yellowcake uranium to Al Qaeda via Iraq (President Bush subsequently claimed in a State of the Union address that such activities warranted the invasion of Baghdad and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein). To be sure, I was immediately skeptical of Valerie Plame's extra-curricular activities - how many mothers of twin toddlers do you know who have the wherewithal to work international covert investigations? "Alias" spy Sidney Bristow must surely feel inadequate at the thought!

If Plame was indeed an active field agent during the not-so-recent past, how does one explain today's revelation (props to Drudge) that Wilson & Wife were photographed for an upcoming issue of Vanity Fair?
CIA Agent Valerie Plame Goes Undercover In Vanity Fair Allow me to "Fisk" (props to LGF) this story:

"My wife has made it very clear that -- she has authorized me to say this -- she would rather chop off her right arm than say anything to the press and she will not allow herself to be photographed," he declared in October on "Meet the Press."

Fair enough, if a bit overwrought in metaphor. There are really risks to those working in the field in the War on Terror. I fail to see how Plame was anything less than tangential in her role (considering the aversion of many Islamists to deal with women, let alone involve them in the upper ecehlons of the decision-making apparatus), but let's run with this for the sake of Wilson's testimony:

But that was before Vanity Fair came calling ... (t)he January issue features a two-page photo of Wilson and the woman the magazine calls "the most famous female spy in America," a "slim 40-year-old with white-blond hair and a big, bright smile." They are sitting in their Jaguar. Plame is wearing a scarf and big glasses, which just adds to the aura of mystery. In a second shot on their terrace at the couple's home near Georgetown, she holds a newspaper in front of her face.

As if in defense of Plame's seemingly dunderheaded decision to appear in the Hollywood ragsheet, Rob Bienner, who shot the snaps, said "... Plame was not originally scheduled to participate in the Nov. 8 shoot, but agreed to join her husband once 'she felt suitably disguised'."

Her teddibly, teddibly gallant husband adds:

"The pictures should not be able to identify her, or are not supposed to," Wilson said yesterday. "She's still not going to answer any questions and there will not be any pictures that compromise her." The reason, said Wilson, is that "she's still employed" by the CIA "and has obligations to her employer."

Right. I'll surmise that the only professional obligation Plame has to CIA is to drive a desk at Langley. Any "agent" who allows her husband to continue to talk about how her privacy and ability to ply her trade have been invaded, and allowing herself to be advised to pose for pictures such as those to appear in VF, could hardly be trusted to any peruse any file above the status of vending machine resupply. It cannot be said that Wilson & Plame have done anything to redeem Plame's professional reputation, such as assuming a lower profile; on the contrary:

It's not that Plame has dropped out of sight. In October, as Vanity Fair notes, she was at the National Press Club -- wearing a "sharp cream pantsuit" -- while her husband received a truth-telling award. Wilson wept from the podium, saying, "If I could give you back your anonymity . . ." and then introduced Plame, who also teared up.

Oh the humanity. Would I be engaging in schadenfreude by pointing out the guilty-ridden subtext of Wilson's tearful declaration?

Plame also mingled unobtrusively last month at a party at the home of The Washington Post's Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn. But there has been an invisible bubble around her as reporters have respected the desire of "Jane Bond," as Wilson calls her, to remain in the Washington shadows.

It's good to know that the "reporters" noted above are doing their jobs! Perhaps it just me, but Wilson's continuance of the alias "Jane Bond" is more telling than any other detail of the Post's story.

I'll grant you that my bias on this story is clear; but in light of this particular comment, I'd venture to guess that Wilson, and not some senior Bush official, was the "source" of the Novak story. It's just too obvious who's getting the most of this scandal, and it's Wilson first and Plame second. Call it a "folie a deux", but most CIA staffers lead a quiet, unassuming life. Their neighbors (and often times their spouse) never know what it is they really do, and this serves both agent and agency well. In the age of the "instant book deal" and "reality TV" it begs mention that Wilson is pursuing a book deal, where he promises to reveal more than simply his wife's 'ordeal'. Quel surprise!

Wilson notes that his family must "make compromises to maintain Plame's privacy. We are not going into seclusion," he said. "We're not going to hide the fact that we live in this town, we go out to dinner and drive cars and parent our kids."

Oh puh-leeze! A return to normal life (and it's concurrent anonymity)is the last thing Wilson & Wife want. Perhaps they might find a place for themselves in Hollywood?

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