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Context of 'Fall 1985: Valerie Plame Joins CIA, Receives Elite Training'

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Valerie Plame, the 22-year old daughter of a military family that followed its Air Force father around the globe during her childhood, joins the CIA. She is one of only 250 or so recruits accepted in the elite Career Trainee Program, a relatively new program installed by CIA Director William Casey and future director Robert Gates. These recruits receive intensive training in everything from academics, government and political structures, and paramilitary operations. Plame is one of the first women accepted in the program. She acquits herself very well in training, winning the respect of her fellow recruits. Classmate Larry Johnson, who will himself go on to a long career in the agency, will later recall of the young woman he knows only as “Val P.”: “She didn’t try to pretend to be something that she was not. She didn’t shoot her mouth off. Looking back, for her age, how so damn young she was, she was remarkably mature, and very serious. It was clear she wanted to be taken seriously.” Only three recruits from the “survivors” of the original class of 250 will go on to work as NOCs—nonofficial covered officers. Plame will be one of those three. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 315-317]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Valerie Plame Wilson, Larry C. Johnson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Valerie Plame, a young CIA case officer (see Fall 1985), begins her first tour of foreign duty in Athens, Greece. She will remain there for three years, functioning out of the US Embassy under diplomatic cover as, primarily, a recruiter of foreign nationals to serve as CIA assets. Athens is a beautiful but dangerous assignment, with the radical leftist group known as “November 17” having killed a number of US officials over the past years, including CIA station chief Richard Welch in 1975. Plame’s station chief, Doug Smith, will remember her as an ambitious agent who worked hard: “It’s rare that someone on a first tour does a really wonderful job. She did well.” Her deputy station chief, who only allows himself to be identified as “Jim,” will add that he has “a very high opinion of Valerie” and the caliber of her work. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 319-321]

Entity Tags: Doug Smith, Central Intelligence Agency, Valerie Plame Wilson, “Jim” (CIA case officer)

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Fall 1992 - 1996: Plame Becomes CIA ‘NOC’

Valerie Plame, a young CIA case officer working in the Europe Division at the agency’s Directorate of Operations following a tour in Greece (see Fall 1985 and Fall 1989), decides on a risky career move—becoming a NOC, or Nonofficial Covered Officer. As reporter Laura Rozen will later explain: “Becoming a NOC would require Plame to erase all visible connections to the US government, while, with the help of the agency’s Office of Central Cover, developing and inhabiting a plausible new private sector career and professional identity that would serve as useful cover for her to meet and develop potential sources of intelligence value to the agency without revealing herself as an agent of the US government. It also meant giving up the protection of diplomatic status should her covert activities be discovered.” “A NOC has no overt affiliation with the US government,” Plame will later write. “If he was caught, the United States would deny any connection.” The CIA accepts her as a NOC candidate, and in order to distance herself from her former association with her former “cover” career as a junior State Department officer in Athens, Plame begins pursuing double graduate degrees in international affairs and European studies. She studies at both the London School of Economics and at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, where the entire curriculum is taught in French. By 1996 she is ensconced in an apartment in Brussels, where she begins a “career” as an energy executive and secret NOC. She has a far wider range of potential contacts within the corporate world as an apparent private citizen, and her new assignment introduces her to the world of weapons proliferation, WMD, counternarcotics, economic intelligence, technological developments, and counterterrorism. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 332-333]

Entity Tags: Laura Rozen, College of Europe, US Department of State, Central Intelligence Agency, Valerie Plame Wilson, London School of Economics

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

The leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a CIA officer by conservative columnist Robert Novak (see July 14, 2003) has resulted in the exposure of a CIA front company, potentially causing widespread damage to overseas intelligence gathering. Yesterday, Novak revealed the name of the firm in another column (see October 2, 2003). The fictitious Boston firm, Brewster Jennings & Associates, appears in Federal Election Commission records on a 1999 form filled out by Plame Wilson when she donated $1,000 to the presidential campaign of Al Gore (D-TN). Once the Novak column was published, CIA officials admitted that it is a front. Brewster Jennings is listed as Plame Wilson’s employer on her 1999 tax forms, though she was working as an undercover CIA officer at the time. A former diplomat says that since Brewster Jennings and Plame Wilson have been exposed, every foreign intelligence service is running the names through their own databases to determine whether she ever visited their countries and what kinds of contacts she made there. “That’s why the agency is so sensitive about just publishing her name,” the former diplomat says. [Washington Post, 10/4/2003]
Plame's NOC Status, 'Legend' - As one of a very small, select number of “nonofficial cover” officers, Plame Wilson would have enjoyed little or no government protection had her cover been blown while she was overseas. Training officers such as her cost millions of dollars and require elaborate constructions of fictional background, called “legends,” including the creation of CIA front companies such as Brewster Jennings. The amount of damage caused by the outing of Plame Wilson and Brewster Jennings is incalculable. Former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro says many other CIA agents and foreign assets are now endangered, and future attempts to convince foreign citizens to share information with US intelligence agencies will be hampered. Former CIA and State Department official Larry Johnson, who trained with Plame Wilson in 1985, says that when the damage is fully assessed, “at the end of the day, [the harm] will be huge and some people potentially may have lost their lives.” Johnson describes himself as “furious, absolutely furious” at the breach. “We feel like the peasants with torches and pitchforks,” he says. “The robber barons aren’t going to be allowed to get away with this.” Former CIA officer Jim Marcinkowski, who also trained with Plame Wilson, agrees: “This is not just another leak. This is an unprecedented exposing of an agent’s identity.” While the CIA continues to keep details of Plame Wilson’s career secret, it is known that she was attached to a US embassy in Europe in 1990 and 1991 (more information on her overseas postings will later be revealed—see Fall 1985, Fall 1989, Fall 1992 - 1996, and April 2001 and After). It is known that when Novak blew her cover, she was a senior case officer for the CIA’s counterproliferation division, working with intelligence about hostile countries and WMD. “All the people who had innocent lunches with her overseas or went shopping or played tennis with her, I’m sure they are having heart attacks right now,” says one former colleague who was also in covert operations. “I would be in hiding now if I were them.” [Washington Post, 10/8/2003; Knight Ridder, 10/11/2003]
Brewster Jennings Just One of Plame Wilson's Cover Firms - Former intelligence officials confirm that Brewster Jennings was just one of several cover affiliations that Plame Wilson used when she was operating overseas. “All it was was a telephone and a post office box,” says one former intelligence officer. “When she was abroad she had a more viable cover.” [Boston Globe, 10/10/2003] Cannistraro will later add that when Plame Wilson was operating undercover outside the US, she would have had a real job with a more legitimate company. The Boston company “is not an indicator of what she did overseas.” Now, those firms are themselves in jeopardy of exposure for working with US intelligence. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 343-344] In 2007, former CIA and National Security Council official Bruce Riedel will say: “I have looked at the part of her CV that is in the open domain. The agency spent an awful lot of effort building a really good cover for this person. A lot of effort. People who say this was not a covert operative don’t understand what they’re saying. This was intended to be a nonofficial cover person who would have the credentials to be a very serious operative. The damage done to the mission of the organization by exposing her, and how cover is built, is pretty serious.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 343]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Robert Novak, Vincent Cannistraro, Jim Marcinkowski, Central Intelligence Agency, Brewster Jennings, Counterproliferation Division, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Federal Election Commission, Larry C. Johnson, Bruce Riedel

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Jim Marcinkowski (left) and Larry Johnson.Jim Marcinkowski (left) and Larry Johnson. [Source: CNN]Former CIA case officer Jim Marcinkowski, a former classmate of outed CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson (see Fall 1985), is outraged by the revelation of Plame Wilson’s CIA status and the allegations that the leak of her identity is not a crime (see July 14, 2003 and September 29, 2003). Another former classmate of Plame Wilson’s, former CIA agent Larry Johnson, says: “[W]hat I keep seeing in the newspaper is the spin and leak that this is no big deal. And that’s got to stop.… The problem with this is a lot of the damage that has occurred is not going to be seen. It can’t be photographed. We can’t bring the bodies out because in some cases it’s going to involve protecting sources and methods. And it’s important to keep this before the American people. This was a betrayal of national security.” Marcinkowski concurs: “This is an unprecedented act. This has never been done by the United States government before. The exposure of an undercover intelligence officer by the US government is unprecedented. It’s not the usual leak from Washington. The leak a week scenario is not at play here. This is a very, very serious event.” Plame Wilson was an NOC, or nonofficial cover officer (see Fall 1992 - 1996). “It was the most dangerous assignment you could take. It takes a special sort of person,” says Marcinkowski, who is now a prosecutor in Michigan. Former CIA official Kenneth Pollack agrees, describing an NOC’s identity as the “holiest of holies.” Many believe that the outrage among the rank and file of CIA agents and officials at Plame Wilson’s outing was so strong that CIA Director George Tenet had little choice but to recommend that the Justice Department investigate the leak (see September 16, 2003). Marcinkowski says: “In this particular case, it was so far over the line, I think myself and a lot of us were truly outraged that the government would do this.… I mean, we kept our mouths closed since 1985, when we joined.” Johnson, noting that both he and Marcinkowski are registered Republicans, says: “As a Republican, I think we need to be consistent on this. It doesn’t matter who did it, it didn’t matter which party was involved. This isn’t about partisan politics. This is about protecting national security and national security assets and in this case there has been a betrayal, not only of the CIA officers there, but really a betrayal of those of us who have kept the secrets over the years on this point.” [Guardian, 10/22/2003; CNN, 10/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Jim Marcinkowski, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, Valerie Plame Wilson, Larry C. Johnson, US Department of Justice, Kenneth Pollack

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

The Lewis Libby defense team files a request to use classified government material as part of Libby’s defense. Legal observers say the Libby request could “bog down” the case for months. The Associated Press reports that the request “puts the Libby case on a dual track: one public, the other secret that often can delay criminal cases from going to trial.” The contents of the filing remain secret, but Libby’s lawyers have implied that they want to reveal the nature of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson’s work as a CIA operative (see Fall 1985, Fall 1989, Fall 1992 - 1996, and April 2001 and After). Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald opposes the idea that some of the classified documents would be provided (see January 23, 2006). Fitzgerald has already turned over 850 pages of classified information to Libby’s defense lawyers, and is working to declassify more information. [Associated Press, 1/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Valerie Plame Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Lawyer Victoria Toensing, who, as journalist David Corn will write, has served as “a point-person for the Libby Lobby, denouncing special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of the Plame leak, and deriding his indictment of… Libby” (see February 18, 2007), testifies to the House Oversight Committee about the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak. Toensing is following testimony from Plame Wilson herself (see March 16, 2007). Contradicting the former CIA agent, Toensing argues that the entire investigation was specious, that—despite all evidence to the contrary (see Fall 1985, Fall 1989, Fall 1992 - 1996, April 2001 and After, and February 18, 2007)—Plame Wilson was never a covert agent and therefore no one could have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) in revealing her identity to the press. Toensing even testifies that conservative columnist Robert Novak, who first printed Plame Wilson’s name in his column, didn’t identify her as a covert agent, but that identification was made by Corn in his own column (see July 16, 2003). Corn will call the allegation “a canard that some Republican spinners have been peddling for years, in an attempt to get Novak off the hook while muddying the waters.” Corn will note that once Novak published Plame Wilson’s name, her “cover was destroyed; her career was ruined; her operations and contacts were imperiled to whatever degree they were imperiled.” Corn wrote two days later that her outing was “a potential violation of the law” and that Novak may have violated the IIPA. Corn noted in the article that Plame Wilson’s husband, Joseph Wilson, refused to confirm or deny his wife’s CIA status. Corn’s article raised the possibility that Plame Wilson had been a covert agent, but presented it as mere speculation. He will write, “In the column, I even raised the possibility that Novak had botched the story and that ‘the White House has wrongly branded’ Valerie Wilson ‘as a CIA officer.’ Bottom line: I did not identify her as a ‘covert’ officer or any other kind of CIA official. I merely speculated she was a NOC. That speculation was based on Novak’s column. And given that Novak had already IDed her as a CIA ‘operative on weapons of mass destruction’ (which happened to be a ‘covert’ position within the agency), her cover—whether nonofficial or official—was blown to smithereens by the time I posted my article.” Corn calls Toensing’s allegation “a desperation-driven and misleading act of hairsplitting” designed to deflect responsibility away from Novak and the White House. Therefore, Corn will write, Toensing has lied to Congress. [Christy Hardin Smith, 3/16/2007; Nation, 3/19/2007]
Toensing Lies about IIPA - Corn will note that Toensing is also lying when she insists that no one ever violated “her” law, the IIPA (which Toensing helped write). In her testimony, she says that to be a covert agent under the IIPA, an agent would have to live outside the US. Corn will note that the law makes no such distinction. The two criteria for an agent to be “covert” under the IIPA are: that person’s “identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information” and that the officer has to be “serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States.” Because Plame Wilson testified earlier in the day that she indeed served overseas as a covert agent within five years of her outing by Novak, she is indeed covered by the IIPA. Corn will write: “Toensing is free to maintain that the law ought to cover only those officers residing overseas as part of a long-term foreign assignment. But that is not what the act says. By stating that the act defines a ‘covert agent’ as an officer residing abroad (as opposed to an officer who had ‘served’ overseas), Toensing misrepresented the law to members of the committee.”
Lying to Congress Is a Crime - Corn will write, “As a lawyer, Toensing is probably aware that knowingly making a false statement to a Congressional committee conducting an investigation or review is a federal crime. (See Title 18, Section 1001 of the US Code.) The punishment is a fine and/or imprisonment of up to five years. To say that I identified Valerie Wilson as a ‘covert’ officer is to make a false statement.” Committee chairman Henry Waxman is apparently unconvinced of Toensing’s honesty; when he concludes Toensing’s session, he says, “Some of the statements you’ve made without any doubt and with great authority I understand may not be accurate, so we’re going to check the information and we’re going to hold the record open to put in other things that might contradict some of what you had to say.” [Nation, 3/19/2007]

Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Henry A. Waxman, David Corn, Bush administration (43), House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Joseph C. Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Victoria Toensing, Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Robert Novak, Valerie Plame Wilson

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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