All this talk of Karl Rove and Louis Libby in the press sparked a damn interesting profile of Valerie Plame…the CIA operative who was leaked to the press and sparked the whole shebang.
The Observer | International | The ‘dumb blonde’ who excelled as a spy
The ‘dumb blonde’ who excelled as a spy
Sunday October 30, 2005
Long before Valerie Plame became America’s most famous spy, she learnt Greek and moved to Athens. It was 1990, her first foreign posting and not long after graduation from Penn State University – and recruitment to the CIA – nearly everything she dreamed of.
Ambitious, blonde and beautiful, Plame, then 27, took to the job with alacrity. With ‘State Department Cover’ at Athens’ US embassy, the secrets of her trade were easy to conceal. Greece, under the unpredictable governance of Andreas Papandreou, a former US citizen turned anti-American populist, was an interesting place. But the first Gulf war was about to happen, making the country’s proximity to the Middle East critical.
As a junior operative, determined to rise through the bureaucracy, Plame would be remembered as unusually diligent and unusually good. So good that even if, privately, she displayed remarkable dexterity with an AK-47 machine gun, publicly she would use charm and good looks if it meant maintaining the interest of a potential recruit.
‘She was willing to dress the part of a dumb blonde,’ one colleague told The Observer. ‘To let yourself be underestimated in a trade craft that is secret is not at all stupid. It shows a lot of skill.’
Her next move was to the London School of Economics, where she began ‘being laundered’ and going undercover. After gaining a degree, she was sent to the College of Europe, an international relations school in Bruges, before moving to Brussels and into the energy business.
There, she worked out of the now closed consulting firm Brewster-Jennings, frequently traveling to Africa and other far-flung areas as an intelligence agent under non-official cover (NOC).
By then none of her friends, and not even her family and father, a retired military officer, knew of her real identity. With no diplomatic protection, the cover she had taken years to build as an energy business consultant would be all-important. Strip it away and, like any other NOC out in the field, she’d be open game for potential enemies – expendable without any official repercussion.
When, in 1997, the CIA began to fear Plame had been given away – along with other covert overseas operatives – to the Russians by the double agent Aldrich Ames, she was brought back to Washington. There, at a reception given by the then Turkish ambassador, her eyes drifted across the room to meet those of retired US ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.
He was 13 years older than her, successful and ruggedly handsome. For both, it was love at first sight.
Within weeks, an unusually nervous Plame felt she had something to say. The couple were in bed, making love, as Wilson would later recall. But her husband-to-be had to know: she was an undercover agent.