WASHINGTON – Former CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose 2003 outing touched off a White House leak scandal, said journalists hid behind the First Amendment after allowing themselves to be exploited by the Bush administration.
Plame writes about the leak, the scandal and the perjury trial of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in her memoir, "Fair Game — My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House." A copy of the book, which is to be released Tuesday, was purchased by The Associated Press.
She offers harsh words for President Bush, whom she assails for administration "arrogance and intolerance." She also said criticism of her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was a "dress rehearsal" for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth effort that impugned Sen. John Kerry's war record during his unsuccessful quest for the presidency in 2004.
Plame often writes from the perspective of spectator to a scandal. She discusses being uncomfortable in the limelight, even as she poses for magazine photographs, attends posh Washington fundraisers and is whisked backstage at a rock concert.
The book represents the first time that Plame has publicly discussed the scandal in detail. After a lengthy trial, an FBI investigation, countless news articles and congressional testimony, however, few revelations were left for Plame's book.
Some of the details Plame had planned to offer, including discussion of her CIA career and her job responsibilities, are redacted in the book. Sometimes that means whole pages of blacked-out text. The CIA objected to the publication of this material and Plame lost a court fight to include them. CIA employees have to clear their writings with the agency.
Syndicated columnist Robert Novak revealed Plame's identity in 2003 in a story about Wilson's CIA-sponsored trip to Niger. Wilson said that trip debunked some prewar intelligence about Iraq's nuclear ambitions, yet the intelligence made it into Bush's State of the Union address that year.
Plame has kind words for Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who led the leak investigation and forced several journalists to testify about their sources. She said she didn't understand why "well-meaning but self-righteous talking heads" decried that effort.
"It was the Pentagon Papers or Watergate turned on its head," she writes, adding, "These reporters were allowing themselves to be exploited by the administration and were obstructing the investigation. It didn't make much ethical sense to me."