'I worked as a covert officer for the CIA,' Plame testifies
Valerie Plame Wilson, the former CIA officer whose "outing" led to the conviction of a former White House aide, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Friday morning.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, was convicted on March 6 on four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice related to the Plame outing.
Opening the hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said, "It's not our job to determine criminal culpability, but it is our job to determine what went wrong and insist on accountability."
Plame testified that, until her cover was blown in a July of 2003 article by conservative columnist Robert Novak, "I was a covert officer for the CIA," and that her "career path was terminated prematurely" by the revelation, because she could no longer perform actions that were necessary for the work that she was trained to do, such as traveling overseas.
Plame said that her "name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior officials in the White House and State Department."
"Politics and ideology must be stripped from our intelligence services," Plame said, after accusing Bush Administration officials of releasing personal information about her deliberately in order to damage the credibility of her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson. "The harm that is done when a CIA cover is blown is great," Plame added.
Plame said that she was "surprised at how carelessly" White House officials had acted in regards to her cover, and said that her exposure left her feeling like she was "hit in the gut"
"They should have been diligent in protecting me and every CIA officer," Plame testified.
During its coverage of the hearing, Fox News Channel cut down the sound to feature commentary by Novak who labeled Plame's contention that she was a "covert operator" as "absurd." Novak also brought up Plame's political contributions to the Democratic Party, to imply that she was partisan.
According to the Associated Press, "Scheduled to testify Friday were attorney Mark Zaid, who has represented whistle-blowers; attorney Victoria Toensing, who said early on that no law was broken and has criticized the CIA's handling of the case, and J. William Leonard, security director of the National Archives, who was to discuss general procedures for handling sensitive information."
Video clip from C-SPAN of Plame's opening statement:
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF FIRST HALF OF HEARING CAN BE READ AT THIS LINK
Full transcript of Plame's opening statement:
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Valerie Plame Wilson and I am honored to have been invited to testify under oath before the committee on oversight and government reform on the critical issue of safeguarding classified information.
I'm grateful for this opportunity to set the record straight. I served the United States loyally and to the best of my ability as a covert operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency.
I worked on behalf of the national security of our country, on behalf of the people of the United States until my name and true affiliation were exposed in the national media on July 14, 2003, after a leak by administration officials.
Today, I can tell this committee even more. In the run-up to the war with Iraq I worked in the counter proliferation division of the CIA -- still as a covert officer whose affiliation with the CIA was classified.
I raced to discover solid intelligence for senior policymakers on Iraq's presumed weapons of mass destruction programs.
While I helped to manage and run secret worldwide operations against this WMD target from CIA headquarters in Washington, I also traveled to foreign countries on secret missions to find vital intelligence.
I loved my career because I love my country. I was proud of the serious responsibilities entrusted to me as a CIA covert operations officer and I was dedicated to this work.
It was not common knowledge on the Georgetown cocktail circuit that everyone knew where I worked.
But all of my efforts on behalf of the national security of the United States -- all of my training, all of the value of my years of service -- were abruptly ended when my name and identity were exposed irresponsibly.
In the course of the trial of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby, I was shocked by the evidence that emerged.
My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department.
All of them understood that I worked for the CIA and, having signed oaths to protect national security secrets, they should have been diligent in protecting me and every CIA officer.
The CIA goes to great lengths to protect all of its employees, providing at significant taxpayers' expense, painstakingly devised and creative covers for its most sensitive staffers.
'Lives are at stake'
The harm that is done when a CIA cover is blown is grave but I can't provide details beyond that in this public hearing.
But the concept is obvious. Not only have breaches of national security endangered CIA officers, it has jeopardized and even destroyed entire networks of foreign agents who, in turn, risk their own lives and those of their families to provide the United States with needed intelligence.
Lives are literally at stake. Every single one of my former CIA colleagues, from my fellow covert officers to analysts to technical operations officers to even the secretaries, understand the vulnerabilities of our officers and recognize that the travesty of what happened to me could happen to them.
We in the CIA always know that we might be exposed and threatened by foreign enemies.
It was a terrible irony that administration officials were the ones who destroyed my cover.
Furthermore, testimony in the criminal trial of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, who has now been convicted of serious crimes, indicates that my exposure arose from purely political motives.
Within the CIA it is essential that all intelligence be evaluated on the basis of its merits and actual credibility. National security depends upon it.
The tradecraft of intelligence is not a product of speculation.
I feel passionately as an intelligence professional about the creeping, insidious politicizing of our intelligence process.
All intelligence professionals are dedicated to the ideal that they would rather be fired on the spot than distort the facts to fit a political view -- any political view or any ideology.
'Strip out politics from intelligence'
As our intelligence agencies go through reorganizations and experience the painful aspects of change and our country faces profound challenges, injecting partisanship or ideology into the equation makes effective and accurate intelligence that much more difficult to develop.
Politics and ideology must be stripped completely from our intelligence services or the consequences will be even more severe than they have been and our country placed in even greater danger.
It is imperative for any president to be able to make decisions based on intelligence that is unbiased.
The Libby trial and the events leading to the Iraq war highlight the urgent need to restore the highest professional standards of intelligence collection and analysis and the protection of our officers and operations.
The Congress has a constitutional duty to defend our national security and that includes safeguarding our intelligence. That is why I am grateful for this opportunity to appear before this committee today and to assist in its important work. Thank you and I welcome any questions.