Book review

Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House” by Valerie Plame Wilson

My original review is here.

Among my journalistic musings on here, I will post book reviews from time to time.

Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative, whose husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, discovered the non-existent Iraq-WMD link. Both Valerie and Joe were outed  for journalistic and political revenge. In “Fair Game,” Valerie describes in detail her career and how the outing impacted her family, career and our national security. Under CIA protocol, much of the book is redacted.

In the acknowledgements, Valerie makes the best case for the book:

“At age seven, Samantha and Trevor have only the vaguest notion of what this book is about. Which is as it should be. When they are older, they will have plenty of time to learn what was at stake during their youngest years. Perhaps they will forgive their mother for the many hours on the telephone or at the computer, shushing them, when all they wanted was for her to play with them or answer an important question. I pray they will understand why their parents were away so much and less patient with their concerns. They are truly the light of my life; they are two of the reasons Joe and I fought for the truth and what we thought was right.”(p. 410)

“Fair Game” also teaches journalists a few messages:  be careful when you cite background and off-the-record sources; do not, under any circumstances, reveal classified information. Joe Wilson was cited as a “retired U.S. ambassador;” within days of that euphemism’s publication, other journalists and political figures put two and two together, and Wilson was outed. In the Google days, anybody can fact-check and background check your writing. As Plame notes, “Under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, it is a crime for anyone who has access to classified information to disclose intentionally information identifying a covert agent. The punishment for such an offense is a fine of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in prison.” (p. 146) Not only do you, as the journalist, hurt your credibility, as well as your organization’s credibility, you damage the life of the person you outed and national security–including yours.

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