CIA Officer At Center Of Career-Ending Leak To Tell Congress Her Story

Thursday, March 15th 2007, 6:06 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Valerie Plame's life changed the day her name appeared in a newspaper column, her job as a CIA officer exposed in black and white.

She goes before a House committee Friday as both a shadowy figure and a celebrity, with lucrative book and movie deals in the works, a magazine cover in her past and her unceremonious unmasking four years ago the subject of persistent intrigue.

Now she is lifting the veil by her own hand, and to maximum effect.

The House is not in session Friday and Plame's only competition for attention in Washington is a Senate subcommittee hearing on next year's budget for smaller federal agencies, and the annual St. Patrick's Day exchange of shamrocks at the White House between President Bush and Ireland's prime minister. In other words, it's no contest.

She's telling her story to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where Democrats are eager to explore the circumstances of her outing and how the White House responded to the leak of her identity.

Although she's had little to say publicly, Plame has made more than a few splashy appearances with her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson. Last month alone, the Wilsons attended a book party for Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic Party chairman, and were spotted having lunch with actress Morgan Fairchild at the Four Seasons.

Then there was last year's announcement that they were suing Bush administration officials they blame for ending her career. They rubbed elbows with Washington's glitterati at a celebrity-studded awards dinner for the White House press corps that year.

The couple famously posed in his Jaguar for the January 2004 cover of Vanity Fair magazine. A scarf covered Plame's blonde hair and dark sunglasses hid her eyes _ deepening the sense of mystery.

The disclosure of Plame's name closed one chapter in her life, but opened others.

The mother of 7-year-old twins, a boy and girl, is putting final touches on a book about her life and the leak of her name, tentatively titled ``Fair Game,'' for which publisher Simon & Schuster paid her an advance of over $1 million.

``She is hopeful she'll be able to get it out soon,'' Wilson said last week. ``She's in discussion with the CIA about it.''

Plame submitted the manuscript to the CIA for a mandatory review, which is done to make sure the book tells no government secrets. It was returned to Plame, who left the agency in January 2006, with suggestions.

``We are all awaiting Ms. Wilson's resubmission,'' CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said Thursday. ``In most cases, we are able to work it out in a way that satisfies everyone's concerns.''

Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster, on Thursday would say only that the book was ``in progress,'' with publication expected soon.

Plame's story also is headed for the big screen. Warner Bros. is developing a film based on the couple's lives, a screenplay is being written and Plame and her husband are expected to serve as consultants.

Asked who he'd like to play them in the movie, Wilson, who has done most of the couple's talking, joked: ``I don't know. I would only ask that Jack Black be cast in a role other than that of Joe Wilson.''

The civil case against Bush administration officials also is moving forward, and that will keep both of their names in the headlines _ long after their imminent move to New Mexico. Arguments are set for May 17 in U.S. District Court.

Plame and her husband blame Vice President Dick Cheney; presidential adviser Karl Rove; I. Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage for revealing her identity and, effectively, ending her career.

``Valerie wishes none of this ever happened,'' said Melanie Sloan, an attorney who represents Plame in the lawsuit and who directs the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. ``She had the life she wanted. She had the job she wanted.''

Plame says she was outed to retaliate for an opinion piece Wilson wrote for The New York Times in July 2003. In it, Wilson said he had investigated claims that Niger was selling yellowcake uranium to Iraq and had found them to be without merit. Wilson also accused the Bush administration of distorting the intelligence it used as the basis for the Iraq war.

Days later, Plame's double life was secret no more, revealed in a piece by syndicated columnist Robert Novak in which he wrote that two administration officials had named her.

Last week, a federal investigation into the leak ended in guilty verdicts for Libby for lying and obstruction of justice. He was the only administration official to face criminal charges in the case.