Valerie Plame Wilson is the former CIA covert operations officer who in 2003 found herself at the heart of a political firestorm when senior White House and State Department officials revealed her secret status to several national journalists–including a syndicated conservative newspaper columnist who published her name.
A subsequent Justice Department investigation exposed what some dub an act of treason: that the “outing” was coordinated with the involvement of President Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff (Karl Rove), Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff (I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby) and the Deputy Secretary of State (Richard Armitage). Libby was indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators, and in March 2007 was found guilty on four of the five counts against him. The Wilsons also have filed a civil suit seeking damages against officials involved in the leaking of her name.
Plame’s husband, retired Ambassador Joseph Wilson, was the first to challenge the Bush administration on its use of purported intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. In a July 2003 New York Times article, he revealed that he had been asked by the CIA to look into allegations that the Iraqis had attempted to purchase significant quantities of uranium yellowcake from the West African country of Niger. Wilson concluded there was no substance to the allegations–a conviction supported by others, including the American Ambassador to Niger and a four-star Marine Corps general. Within a week of his accusation that the White House “twisted” its intelligence to justify the Iraq invasion, Plame’s employment as a CIA agent was revealed–the retaliation at the heart of the Justice Department investigation.
Born on Elmendorf Air Force base in Anchorage, Alaska, Plame’s career in the CIA included extensive work in counter-proliferation operations, working to ensure that enemies of the United States could not threaten America with weapons of mass destruction. Plame and Wilson are the parents of 7-year-old twins. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and two Master’s degrees, from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, respectively.
Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson was the last American official to meet with Saddam Hussein before the start of the 1990 Gulf War. He was the acting U.S. Ambassador in Iraq throughout Operation Desert Storm. His 20-plus year career in international politics was marked with numerous senior government appointments, including that of Special Assistant to President Clinton. President George H.W. Bush dubbed Wilson “a true American hero” for his efforts in helping to free more than 100 American hostages in Iraq after Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.
More recently, Wilson was assigned by the administration of President George W. Bush in 2002 to investigate reports that Hussein was seeking to acquire uranium for the purpose of advancing Iraq’s nuclear program. Wilson reported back to Washington that he found no such basis for the claims.
In a 2003 New York Times piece, Wilson opined that the Bush Administration had exaggerated the threat of the Iraqi nuclear program. Soon after, the employment of his wife–CIA Operative Valerie Plame-Wilson–was revealed, leading the former ambassador to charge that White House officials leaked his wife’s covert identity as retaliation for his NYT denouncement. This allegation has lead to today’s historical investigation into possible violations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act–in addition to sparking a running debate regarding journalism ethics.
Wilson’s highly decorated career also includ es a 1997-98 stint as Special Assistant to President Clinton/Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council. In this role, he was responsible for the coordination of U.S. policy to the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a leading proponent of the Africa Trade Bill and a principal architect of President Clinton’s historic 1998 trip to Africa.
A self-proclaimed political centrist, Joe Wilson was a member of the U.S. Diplomatic Service from 1976-98. Serving during this time the administrations of both parties, he held posts throughout Africa and eventually was named ambassador to Gabon. From 1988-91, he was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.
In October 2003, Wilson received the Ron Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling from the Fertel Foundation and the Nation Institute–awarded to an individual or organization that has brought an important issue to light. Additional honors include: the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Award, the Department of State Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards, the University of California/Santa Barbara Distinguished Alumnus Award and the American Foreign Service Association William R. Rivkin Award.
A California native and graduate of UC-Santa Barbara, Wilson manages JCWilson International Ventures, a consulting firm specializing in strategic management and international-business development.