Damaging Ripple Effect of CIA Agent's Exposure

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, October 7, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Back to the controversy about that CIA agent who was outed. Now that Valerie Plame (search) has been identified as a former CIA officer, her covert career is over. But the damage doesn't end there.

Jim Marcinkowski (search) was a training officer in the CIA (search) and in the same training class as Plame. And that's today's big question — what is the long-term damage caused by unmasking Valerie Plame?

JIM MARCINKOWSKI, FORMER CIA CASE OFFICER: The unmasking of this particular agent obviously goes beyond the standard Washington talk about the release of classified information. This is an unprecedented exposure of the identify of an agent. This involves the sources and methods of intelligence collection by the United States around the world. Damage as widespread has a ripple effect. It is going to have a ripple effect throughout the United States, as well as overseas and will damage our national security.

Obviously, the ambassador's wife will no longer be able to be an agent undercover anywhere in the world. Obviously, her family, her friends, anyone she was in contact with over the course of her 18-plus years as an agent will be seriously damaged. Those people will come under suspicion. Obviously, the people she had contact with as an operative, those being the agents that may have worked with her, will also come under scrutiny, perhaps surveillance, perhaps imprisonment and even death, depending on the country that they were located in.

GIBSON: You know, Mr. Marcinkowksi, I have a couple of questions I've always found kind of curious about this. It seemed to me that it was, you know, probably coming a little close to self-outing to be the wife of an ambassador. Is that so unusual in your view?

MARCINKOWSKI: Well… As the secondary effects of this particular outing, it was obviously unusual. And when you look at it from an intelligence perspective, that was quite a good set-up. The damage done now, as far as she being the ambassador's wife is, as of today, as of the release of this information, every single wife of an ambassador all around this world will now be subject to scrutiny by the local service of the country they happen to be assigned to. They will probably subject themselves to surveillance. They will be questioned as to their real motives, perhaps, in some of the causes that is usual for them to undertake as the ambassador's wife in foreign countries. So, that's another ripple effect. That's a damage that has ...

GIBSON: But this thing, it seems so strange for a covert officer. I mean, we put this picture up a minute ago and it was hard for people to tell what it is. It is a reception someplace with Bill Clinton. And I guess we're looking at the back of the head of Joseph Wilson, the ambassador. And we're looking at a sort of an obscured picture of a blonde woman who apparently is Valerie Plame. You can't see who she is. But the fact that she is in a place as prominent and public as a reception with the president of the United States, and she's a covert officer, doesn't that just ring wrong?

MARCINKOWSKI: Well, first of all, when you enter the agency, you don't give up your political rights in this country. Second of all, as the overseas operative, it is not unusual to be in the company of politicians, not only from the country that you're assigned to, but perhaps those dignitaries and officials from the United States. So, that is not unusual at all. What is unusual is being identified as a Central Intelligence Agency officer ...

GIBSON: No, I understand that. But the other thing that seems a little strange to me and maybe you can explain it, is Bob Novak (search), who is the one who outed her, he is the one who used her name. He says that when he talked to the CIA, he was actually looking for a red light. He said, “Look, I'm going to use her name.” And if they had said, “Hey, you're going to put somebody's life in danger. You're going to put at risk covert operations,” etc., etc., he wouldn't have done it. Instead, what they said to him, according to him, was, “Well, you're going to make it difficult for her to travel overseas and you probably shouldn't do it.” If it's as bad as you say, and I have no reason to believe it isn't, why wouldn't they put up more of a red light?

MARCINKOWSKI: Well, maybe they did, maybe they didn't. I wasn't a party to that conversation, but I can say this — as far as the actions of Bob Novak in talking about any agency personnel, I don't care if it's the janitor who doesn't want to reveal his connection based on the fact that it could make him a target. But the point is, you cannot — this is — what we're talking about here is a spy agency, by definition. It is as simple as that. When you are talking about people that work for a spy agency, obviously everybody in America knows you should be very cautious with the identification of people that you're dealing with.

Second of all, as far as the leaker who may have leaked this information to him, a couple things. Number one, they should have been a lot more sensitive to the perhaps criminal consequences, which I hope they've become more aware of in the future. But look at the timing of this release. This has done incredible damage to the president. It did incredible damage to the CIA at a time when this country is at a war on terrorism. That person was simply irresponsible for releasing the information and even more irresponsible for releasing it under these circumstances for our country.

GIBSON: Jim Marcinkowski, Mr. Marcinkowski, thanks very much. Appreciate your coming on today.

MARCINKOWSKI: You're welcome.

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