Outed CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson held a senior position in the CIA's intelligence-gathering group tasked with nailing down the details of Saddam Hussein's WMD programs, a new book says.
From spring 2001 until Bush Administration officials leaked her identity to reporters, Plame -- her maiden name, which was used to out her -- was an undercover operative placed in charge of the operations group for the agency's Joint Task Force on Iraq. She oversaw clandestine programs to acquire inside knowledge of the Hussein regime's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, report David Corn and Michael Isikoff in their new book, "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War."
Some, including the National Review
's Jonah Goldberg, claimed Plame had been "a desk jockey" before her outing. Bob Novak, who played a key role in revealing her identity, called her an "analyst."
Corn and Isikoff note that at the time of the outing Plame was "in the process of changing her clandestine status. . . to official cover, as she prepared for a new job in personnel management," Corn writes
on the Nation
Web site today. "Official cover" means an operative acknowledges they work for the U.S. government, although not necessarily the CIA. The book says she planned to return eventually to undercover work.
From the JTFI, the two men report Plame ran a network of U.S. residents of Iraqi descent with relatives who worked in the Iraqi government's scientific operations. That operation was first disclosed in New York Times reporter James Risen's recent book, "State of War."
According to both accounts, the CIA encouraged the residents to ask specific questions of their relatives about Saddam Hussein's weapons development programs. Risen reported that 30 men and women went to Iraq and met with relatives ("Hubris" counts only a "few"); they all returned with the information that no such programs existed.
Earlier this year, news outlets reported that Plame was working on tracking Iranian nuclear efforts when her cover was blown. Outing her caused "severe" damage to the efforts, one reported. In his Nation online piece, Corn notes only that Plame had "assisted operations involving Iran and WMDs."