May 28th, 2014

Valerie Plame: “…there’s too many stupid things that are happening.”

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer spoke with former CIA agent, and author of “Blowback”, Valerie Plame about the disclosure of the CIA station chief.

In the interview, Plame said to Wolf, “Right now, I think there’s serious reforms that need to be put into place across the board, starting at the director of National Intelligence, there’s too many stupid things that are happening.”

 The interview aired on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, 5:00-6:30 p.m. E.T.

A full transcript is available after the jump.




WOLF BLITZER, HOST:  Joe, thanks very much.

Valerie Plame, the former CIA officer, the author of “Blowback,” is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us now.

Valerie, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER:  When you heard that the name of the CIA station chief was disclosed, what went through your mind?

PLAME:  Well, it was colossally stupid, of course.  What an error of huge proportions with tremendous consequences.  But no way is it equivalent to what happened to me…

BLITZER:  Why is that…

PLAME:  — (INAUDIBLE) of my name.

It’s a false equivalency that’s being put out there.  And what — it all comes down to intent.

What happened with me, I — my name was intended to be leaked in retaliation against my husband, who was a fierce critic of the Bush administration and the Iraq War.

BLITZER:  When Richard Armitage, was he — he was the one who initially leaked your name.  He was the deputy secretary of State.

Was he in — deliberately wanted to blow your cover, is that what you’re saying?

PLAME:  He wasn’t the only one (INAUDIBLE)…

BLITZER:  He wasn’t the only one…


BLITZER:  He was the first.

PLAME:  Yes, he was.  And he apologized publicly, saying it was very foolish for him to have done so.  He’s been around Washington long enough to completely understand the implications of it — even if you don’t know someone’s cover status, if they are somehow affiliated with the CIA, it’s best not to gossip about it with other journalists.

BLITZER:  Yes.  So that was obviously a blunder.

But here, there was a blunder, too.  Some — apparently some low level either military and diplomatic officials put the name down on this list that was given to a reporter who submitted it as a pool report.

PLAME:  That’s right.  From what the reporting is and what I understand, it was on a list drawn up by the military.  I’m sure everyone was breathless with the president coming.  It was a surprise visit for Memorial Day.

And it was a — just a really stupid error.

BLITZER:  Because we know the White House legal counsel is investigating now to see if any crimes were committed, if another should be fired.

What do you think?

PLAME:  I don’t know what his investigation will show, but I think that it will show that it was just an error.

BLITZER:  Let’s talk about spy craft for a moment.  You were a clandestine officer.  You worked undercover.  You went out there to try to recruit spies to help the United States.

That’s different than a station chief, a CIA station chief, who’s known to the host country intelligence chief, who works with them on a daily basis, right?

PLAME:  That’s correct.  A chief of station is the head of all intelligence operations in any given country.  And he is declared to what we say liaison…


BLITZER:  — the Afghan government would know that this is the CIA station chief?

PLAME:  That’s correct.  But take the Afghan government is, as we know, been eroded and is probably infiltrated by those who seek us — to do us harm.
and so the consequences in this case are pretty severe.  I doubt he had a — his family with him in country because it is so dangerous.  But the — the implications of having his name out there, there would be plenty of al Qaeda and Taliban supporters that would be happy to see him killed.

BLITZER:  So your recommendation is that this guy get out of there?

PLAME:  Oh, I hope he was on Air Force One going back to the States with the president.

BLITZER:  Because if he stayed in country, that would be…

PLAME:  His — his covert career, as mine was, is finished.

BLITZER:  What if he comes back here, though?

Is his covert career finished?

Can he go anyplace else, now that so many people know his identity?

PLAME:  Not in any covert capacity.  I don’t know what his career plans are.  I don’t even know the name of the chief of station, except that he will have to figure out, does he want to stay?

I mean for me, I thought I had the best job in the world.  I loved what I did.  And when I could no longer have that covert cover to travel around the world, I worked especially on counter — nuclear counter proliferation issues — I didn’t want to stay.

BLITZER:  Do you think his life is now in danger even if he leaves Afghanistan, comes back to the United States?

PLAME:  Listen, any time you’re a poster child for the CIA, there are a lot of people that are — either have ideological or they are mentally unbalanced, that are going to try to find you and perhaps cause you harm.

BLITZER:  Is there any way to prevent these kinds of disclosures down the road?

PLAME:  Well, it speaks to a broader issue.  I mean that — I think what happened in the case of the COS Kabul was really just stupid.

But it speaks to the broader issue of how many people have security clearances.  I’ve heard at least over — up to a million have top secret clearances in this country and five million people have some sort of clearance.

When you have that many, is it any wonder that you have what’s happened with Snowden or any of the other leaks?

I’m surprised we haven’t had more.

BLITZER:  You know, this case of Ryan Fogle — you remember that case, accused by the Russians of working for the CIA.  They had video of him disguised in a wig and glasses.

What was that all about?

Do — do more changes have to be made?

Because that looked sort of, I mean, almost ridiculous.

PLAME:  Amateurish?


PLAME:  You know, the CIA, as usual, has been turned — it’s been highly politicized ever since the Iraq War.  Presidents can’t help but realize once they get into office that, gee, they have this entire intelligence service at their disposal and how it can be used.

Right now, I think that there’s serious reforms that need to be put into place across the board, starting at the director of National Intelligence, there’s a — there’s too many stupid things that are happening.

BLITZER:  Do you believe Edward Snowden when he says he was really a covert operative, a clandestine officer trained by the CIA, trained by the NSA, the DIA, he was really working undercover, they gave him a false name as he was overseas?

You — this is what he’s now suggesting.

PLAME:  What little I have seen of his interview is that he said he was trained as a spy.

What could — what is true, I know, that anyone who goes overseas in any sort of undercover capacity does have some basic training.

He was not an operations officer.  He did not work in human — human intelligence, as I did.

His training in that regard, I think, was probably rather superficial, how to maintain his cover, how to move around, if he — that sort of thing.

His claims, I think, are a little beyond what the reality is.

BLITZER:  You worked in the intelligence community for a long time.

How much damage do you think he did to the United States?

PLAME:  I have no way of knowing.  But I — I don’t like it when the conversation centers on him and you get into that didactic of traitor or patriot, because that’s just going down a rabbit hole.  What he has done is brought up significant issues in how robust and how substantial the NSA’s warrantless surveillance has been and is it in direct conflict with our constitutional values?

Those are the issues we really need to continue to discuss.

BLITZER:  So how is life after the CIA?

PLAME:  I miss my job, but I’m hard at work on my sep — second spy thriller, called “Burn.” It will come out in October.

And so you can take some of the stories and — and fascinating characters I met along the way and you fictionalize them and — and that’s what I’m working on now.

BLITZER:  Well, I recommended “Blowback.”

It was an excellent, excellent read.

Valerie, thanks, as usual, for coming in.

PLAME:  Thank you.


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