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Wall Street Journal

 

The Plame Affair, Hollywood Style

December 09, 2010

By Judith Miller

PRINTER FRIENDLY

An antiwar State Department official leaked the spy’s name. You won't find that in the plot of ’Fair Game.’


I went to jail in the summer of 2005 to protect the identity of a confidential source who spoke to me about Valerie Plame, the former CIA spy whose identity was disclosed after her husband publicly challenged part of the evidence that President Bush cited to justify his invasion of Iraq. I’m the only person to have gone to jail in what became known as Plamegate. But you wouldn’t know it from the recently released movie “Fair Game.”

There is no character based on me in the film—and that turns out to be a good thing. Although the movie is brilliantly acted, it is also a gross distortion of a complicated political saga.

Based on books by Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, Ms. Plame, the film purports to be what Mr. Wilson has called a “fair and accurate” rendition of the story. According to their view, her name was leaked by White House apparatchiks to punish Mr. Wilson for challenging the Bush administration’s case for war.

Here are some of the movie’s untruths:

• Although Ms. Plame was apparently a covert undercover officer in the CIA’s counterproliferation division trying to gather intelligence on Iraq’s WMD programs, several of her colleagues said that she did not play the key role in the agency’s effort, as the film asserts. She was not directly involved in the CIA’s attempts to provide safe haven for Iraqi scientists who had worked in Iraq’s WMD programs. Nor was she the CIA official, as the film also claims, who recruited an Iraqi-American woman in Ohio to travel to Iraq and visit her brother, a scientist who was working on Saddam’s alleged nuclear program in Baghdad.

• Also contrary to the film’s portrayal, the revelation of Ms. Plame’s identity did not cause the CIA to abandon contacts among Iraqi scientists so that Israel’s Mossad could kill them. Nor did it do so because the scientists weren’t saying what the agency wanted to hear.

• As the film would have it, the CIA’s leadership resisted the notion that Saddam Hussein had WMD and challenged the intelligence being provided to the White House. I was a reporter who covered what the CIA said about Iraqi WMD prior to the war, and I wrote stories in the New York Times based on what turned out to be that flawed intelligence.

In fact, the agency led the effort to draft the National Intelligence Estimate in 2002 that concluded with “high confidence” on behalf of more than a dozen intelligence agencies that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and an active nuclear program. Former CIA director George Tenet insists in his memoir that he and the agency’s other top analysts considered the Iraqi WMD case “rock solid.” Later, he adds: “We told the president what we did on Iraq WMD because we believed it.”

• If there was a grand plot to punish Mr. Wilson for his candor by outing his wife, as the film suggests, no one was ever indicted for it. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who would have indicted the proverbial ham sandwich, never indicted anyone for having outed Ms. Plame.

Finding no such conspiracy, he eventually indicted my source, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff—not for leaking Valerie Plame’s name, as the film suggests, but for lying about what he said to federal officials about the episode.

• The person who first leaked the fact that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA to conservative columnist Robert Novak—who published that information, and her name, despite his opposition to the Iraq war—was not a White House official. He was State Department official Richard Armitage. Like his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Mr. Armitage was critical of the push to war.

Yet Mr. Armitage has no on-screen role in the film. He is mentioned only in the film’s text epilogue.

The tension between the hawks in the White House and the more skeptical State Department is one of those inconvenient truths the filmmakers apparently chose to ignore. Acknowledging it would contradict the notion of a grand government conspiracy to punish Mr. Wilson, as well as the “Bush Lied, People Died” mantra.

• The film also wrongly portrays Mr. Wilson as a whistleblower who debunked the White House claim that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger. An editorial in the Washington Post last Friday reminds us that an investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee found that the oral assessment Mr. Wilson presented over Chinese food at his house to two CIA analysts “did not affect the intelligence community’s view on the matter.” (Amazingly, the CIA never asked him to write down a single word about the trip.)

• “Fair Game” suggests that Ms. Plame’s outing inflicted severe damage on the CIA’s sources. But this, too, may be untrue. In a letter to the Washington Post on Nov. 12, R.E. Pound, a retired CIA agent who helped assess the damage allegedly caused by the leak at one location, concluded: “There was none.” He also challenged as “ludicrous” Ms. Plame’s claim, echoed in the film, that her outing forced her resignation.

Mr. Pound ought to know: His own CIA affiliation was exposed in 1978 by Philip Agee in his book, “Dirty Work II.” Yet he continued working at the agency for nearly 34 years. Ms. Plame famously posed in a Jaguar wearing spy gear for Vanity Fair, and later left the agency. The film portrays that decision as her reluctant acquiescence to her heroic husband’s desire to “tell our side of the story.”

And so they have. Having bought an expensive home in Sante Fe, Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame now make a living giving speeches about WMD and the Bush administration’s venality. Asked about the film’s accuracy by the Washington Post, Mr. Wilson gave this review: “For people who have short memories or don’t read, this is the only way they will remember the period.” Precisely.

Original Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703296604576005881472881282.html

 

 
 
 

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