Saturday, December 1, 2007

Valerie Plame Wilson

I heard former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson on the NPR program "Fresh Air", and I was mesmerized. Like everyone else, I had followed the story of her 'outing', the subsequent investigations and the trial of Vice-Presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby. It was interesting, but when it was all over I moved on, with no intention of giving it much more thought. But Mrs. Wilson's new book - Fair Game: my life as a spy, my betrayal by the White House - has reopened the topic for discussion, and in her publicity interviews for the book she comes across as matter-of-fact about the damage that was done to her career and her life without sounding angry or bitter. She was composed and erudite, with a certain sense of humor, and I was very impressed.
I found her book interesting for two reasons totally unrelated to the scandal surrounding the disclosure of her identity. The first reason was that the CIA deleted large sections of her manuscript prior to publishing (like any CIA employee, she signed a confidentiality agreement). The publisher - Simon & Schuster - felt that the editing went beyond the bounds of national security so they not only left in the big black boxes that replaced the censored text, they had reporter Laura Rozen write an afterword that uses publicly available information to basically fill in the CIA-deleted text. Therefore, the CIA comes across as looking totally idiotic.
The second reason I found this book intriguing was that smack in the middle of the book was a chapter describing the premature birth of her twins (now 7) and her struggles with postpartum depression (PPD). The difficulties she encountered getting anyone, including her husband, to appreciate the severity of her problem are clearly laid out. Treatment and time eventually cured her depression, and she went on to volunteer at a support group for new mothers with PPD, and she includes a list of resources in the back of the book for anyone suffering from this problem. This chapter is a very powerful episode of humanity in the midst of a CIA memoir that is full of dates, facts and quotes.
It will be interesting to see what path Valerie Plame Wilson follows from here. I'm sure it will be a successful one.

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