Plame was ‘covert’ agent at time of name leak

/ Source: NBC News

An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame's employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was "covert" when her name became public in July 2003.

The summary is part of an attachment to Fitzgerald's memorandum to the court supporting his recommendation that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former top aide, spend 2-1/2 to 3 years in prison for obstructing the CIA leak investigation.

The nature of Plame's CIA employment never came up in Libby's perjury and obstruction of justice trial.

Undercover travel
The unclassified summary of Plame's employment with the CIA at the time that syndicated columnist Robert Novak published her name on July 14, 2003 says, "Ms. Wilson was a covert CIA employee for who the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States."

Plame worked as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations and was assigned to the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) in January 2002 at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

The employment history indicates that while she was assigned to CPD, Plame, "engaged in temporary duty travel overseas on official business."  The report says, "she traveled at least seven times to more than ten times."  When overseas Plame traveled undercover, "sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias -- but always using cover -- whether official or non-official (NOC) -- with no ostensible relationship to the CIA."

Criminal prosecution beat national security
After the Novak column was published and Plame's identity was widely reported in the media, and according to the document, "the CIA lifted Ms Wilson's cover" and then "rolled back her cover" effective to the date of the leak.

The CIA determined, "that the public interest in allowing the criminal prosecution to proceed outweighed the damage to national security that might reasonably be expected from the official disclosure of Ms. Wilson's employment and cover status."

The CIA has not divulged any other details of the nature of Plame's cover or the methods employed by the CIA to protect her cover nor the details of her classified intelligence activities.  Plame resigned from the CIA in December 2005.

Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson have filed a lawsuit against four current or former top Bush administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, accusing them and other White House officials of conspiring to destroy her career at the CIA.

'I felt like I had been hit in the gut'
In March at a House of Representatives hearing, Plame testified saying, "My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White house and the State Department"

She described how it felt to see her true identity exposed in the morning paper, her career destroyed she said.

"I felt like I had been hit in the gut, it was over in an instant, I immediately thought of my family's safety."

Plame's identity was leaked to reporters in 2003, after her husband began criticizing the Bush administration. She claims her constitutional rights were violated by the administration and is demanding compensation.

No leak charges
Several administration officials, including Libby, former State Department official Richard Armitage and Bush advisor Karl Rove, disclosed Plame's identity to reporters.

No one was ever charged with the leak of Plame's name itself, which would have been a crime only if someone knowingly gave our information about someone covered by a specific law protecting the identities of covert agents.

Fitzgerald wrote last week in the 18-page memo, "Particularly in a case such as this, where Mr. Libby was a high-ranking government official whose falsehoods were central to issues in a significant criminal investigation, it is important that this court impose a sentence that accurately reflects the value the judicial system places on truth-telling in criminal investigations."

The special counsel recommended to the judge that Libby not receive any leniency, because, he writes, "He has expressed no remorse, no acceptance of responsibility, and no recognition that there is anything he should have done differently - either with respect to his false statements and testimony, or his role in providing reporters with classified information about Ms. Wilson's affiliation with the CIA."

Libby was convicted in March of four of five felony counts against him. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 5th before U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton.

Joel Seidman is an NBC producer, based in Washington.