Skeggs Lecture Series Features Valerie Plame: Former CIA Operations Officer

CMYKValerie Plame_headshot
Valerie plame. Photo Courtesy of Mike D’Andrea.

By Alyssa Pawluk

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, Youngstown State University’s Skeggs Lecture Series will feature former Central Intelligence Agency Operations Officer Valerie Plame.

The event is open to the public and will begin at 7 p.m. in Stambaugh Auditorium, followed by a book signing by Plame at 8 p.m.

Plame is a public advocate on issues of national security, nuclear proliferation and politics. She wrote a memoir that was published in 2007 about how her CIA identity was revealed to several journalists by senior White House officials and state department officials entitled “Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House.”
“Fair Game” has since been crafted into a movie starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts.

Since then, Plame has been traveling to universities and schools across the country to not only discuss her experience in the CIA after going through the “political firestorm,” but to also inform audiences about issues of national security and politics.

Plame said that she is going to discuss her memoir during her talk at Stambaugh.

“So I think I will talk about that story and why it matters. I always like when there is time for Q & A, and then we can talk about things like nuclear proliferation or women in intelligence or the NSA Snowden revelations. Those are the things that I follow and find pretty interesting,” Plame said.

Plame explained her “outing” from the CIA after her identity was exposed to several national journalists.

“I can no longer be affiliated with the CIA. I can no longer be covert, and I can’t do the job, which I was highly trained to do. In my case, there really was a political agenda behind it. Senior officials from the Bush Administration were very angry with my husband for having written a piece in which he believed that a lot of the intelligence had been manipulated to lead us into war with Iraq,” Plame said. “This is my speculation, but I believe those that were responsible saw this as payback to my husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, for having questioned why the Bush administration took this country into war with Iraq.”

Since 2003, Plame’s story has been circulating online and she has been in the middle of a political firestorm. Plame said these articles that claim White House Officials did not leak her name to Robert Novak and the press are untrue.

“That’s completely erroneous. A senior White House official gave him [Novak] my name. In fact, it wasn’t just Novak; there were half a my office that were upset, and every adviser that I’ve talked to has addressed that, has had several students that were upset,” Miller said.

dozen other journalists that would pass my name. He [Novak] is dead now, and it was completely designed to send a warning signal to others that had begun to talk about the interference of the Office of the Vice President into the intelligence world and how we got into war with Iraq in the first place,” Plame said.

Plame received a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University, and master’s degree from the College of Europe in Belgium and from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Plame has written two spy thrillers: “Blowback,” published in 2013 with co-author Sarah Lovett and its sequel “Burned.”

Upon having her name exposed, Plame said that life not only changed for her but her family as well.

“At the time, our children were very small, just toddlers and I was very concerned about their physical nature because there was a lot of people out there that are either unbalanced or would love to say that they took care of a CIA agent. It was a very difficult time. It felt like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole where black is white and white is black. It was a huge media firestorm for a couple of years and I ended up resigning from the CIA in 2007 after the vice president’s Chief of Staff was convicted of leaking my name,” Plame said.

Plame discussed some of her duties as a former CIA Operations Officer. One of her main prerogatives was to prevent nuclear proliferation operations — or the spread of nuclear weapons, fissionable material, and weapons-applicable nuclear technology and information to nations not recognized as Nuclear Weapon States.

“My job was to spot, assess, develop and recruit foreign assets to provide critical intelligence to U.S. policy makers. I was running operations; I was completely focused on operations pertaining to nuclear proliferation, essentially making sure bad guys don’t get a nuclear weapon,” Plame said.

Plame expressed her positivity for the upcoming lecture.

“I’m excited. I really enjoyed speaking to university students because of course this happened when students were still very young, but we are still dealing with the aftermath of the Iraq War today — what we see with ISIS, what we see with the entire Middle East is bubbling, and it’s important to understand how we got where we are. I also encourage students to consider a career in public service, whatever that might be. I’m looking forward to it,” Plame said. “What I hope is the take away from my experience, what my husband and I both hope, is that people understand how important it is to hold your government to account.”