I read this book because Valerie Plame Wilson’s “outing” was one of the case histories dissected in “Tangled Webs” by James Stewart, which I reviewed a few days ago, on January 8, 2014.
The CIA does it’s work using a very wide range of employees, from clerks to analysts to “operatives”, whom most of us would call spies. Valerie Wilson was one of their very few undercover spies. This is a spy whose existence may be denied if things go wrong. She was provided with complex “cover”, including employment that made her presence in her target country plausible. When her identity and CIA employment were revealed, it put her and others into danger.
This book is an amalgam. Wilson wrote her story, which was then subject to CIA review. It is heavily redacted (censored). This is not the first redacted book I have read. In this case, the punctuation “… ” showed up wherever text was removed. Sometimes chapter titles were redacted. I prefer the blackout technique. Then you can tell whether you are missing just a few words or whole paragraphs.
In addition to Wilson’s battered text, the book includes transcripts from hearings and an extensive article by journalist Laura Rozen which fills in much of the redacted material. The CIA and courts decided that material already in the public domain (in news articles) could not be discussed by Wilson. Wilson was not, for example, permitted to say how long she worked for the CIA. But the CIA couldn’t stop the editor from including relevant news articles.
Censorship aside, what about the book? Both V P Wilson and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson are interesting people. They played in the big leagues. Valerie Wilson had a high tolerance for risk.
The book is inherently political. So is the CIA, and that’s scary. OK, so why do we need such a branch of government? Well, other governments are spying on us. We have enemies. After the fall of the Soviet Union, there were fewer obvious enemies, but international terrorism began to heat up. Nuclear proliferation remained a threat. So did “rogue states”.
How does this get to be SO political? George Bush wanted to go to war with Iraq, and he needed justification. If Saddam Hussein was rapidly increasing his ability to wage nuclear or biological warfare, that would do it. Bush went “around” the CIA and cited British reports that Hussein had tried to buy uranium ore from Niger. Colin Powell got on the bandwagon, and America went to war. The weapons of mass destruction were not found. THEY WEREN’T THERE. Hussein, who had very little going for him, managed to convince his own people and the world that he had them. Aside from the earlier “yellow rain” use in Kurdistan (not to be minimized), it was all bluster. What a colossal tragedy!
This is a “piece of the puzzle” type book. You wouldn’t want it as your only source of information (on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq), but it is well worth reading. And all of us need to know how our tax dollars are being spent, at the CIA and other federal agencies.
I plan to read Joseph Wilson’s memoir.