This is the inside story of The Plame Affair – the revelation that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative, allegedly initiated by the Bush White House because Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, had been critical of the administration’s reasoning for starting the Iraq War.
The most obvious part of this book is the redaction – massive stretches of this book are blocked out.
The authors (Plame had a co-author) explain this in a “publisher’s note” at the beginning. Since she worked at the CIA, the agency had to vet the book before publication, and they redacted massive portions of it. They authors sued and lost, so they decided to publish the book with the redactions in place.
…and there are a lot. One entire chapter is redacted – just big black rectangles on the page.
In other places, even single words are redacted. For example:
I took in my X classmates in our CIA introduction course.
Apparently knowing the number of CIA recruits that were in a course back in the 1980s somehow compromises operational security? (From the size of the rectangle, it looks a single digit. Assuming it has to be more than 0, and she uses the plural “classmates,” the number could be anywhere from two to nine. I hope I don’t get arrested for writing that…)
The CIA didn’t want Plame talking about anything she actually did while she worked there. When she discusses her first assignment, for example, everything that would identify the location is redacted. I pieced together from context that it was somewhere in Southern Europe, and I was right – her Wikipedia page talks all about her being stationed Greece.
And that’s the funny part – Plame can’t talk about certain things, but other people can. And they do. At the end of the book, her co-author has an epilogue of about 40 pages recounting Plame’s career from the third person, clearly explaining everything she did that was redacted when it was in Plame’s own voice.
Plame was under “Non Official Cover” (NOC). This means that she used her own name and was ostensibly working for a multi-national corporation in other countries. What she was really doing was trying to find people willing to share state secrets – willing to become spies for the U.S. She would them hand them off to another group to make “the approach” and establish a covert relationship.
Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, was a former ambassador. In 2002, he was asked to go to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq tried to purchase uranium. After 10 days in-country, he didn’t find any evidence of this.
Still, the Bush administration claimed that this purchase attempt actually did occur. It was one of the justifications for starting the Iraq War. Colin Powell talked about it in front of the U.N., and it became the infamous “Sixteen Words” of that speech.