Plame testifies, calls press outing a travesty

by Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher

Valerie Plame told a congressional committee today that she indeed did work in a "covert" status at the CIA, and referred to the "travesty" of the disclosure of that by administration officials and the media.

"I know I am here under oath, and I am here to say that I was covert," she said, disputing claims to the contrary.

She said she was "shocked" by some of the revelations in the recent Libby trial.

She also denied recommending that her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, be sent to Niger in the 2002 mission. After noting that she was happy to say this under oath, she called the allegation "incorrect" and "doesn't square with the facts."

Plame said a CIA colleague had mentioned that Wilson was qualified to do this assignment. She said she was "ambivalent" about that, as she was concerned about looking after the couple's two-year-old twins at the time. But asked to pass this request on, she did.

She said an email she sent was "taken out of context" by Republicans in Congress and made to seem as if she had recommended him.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, kicked it off, by revealing what the CIA had cleared for him to state. Despite long claims by conservatives, she was indeed a "covert" agent, the CIA said, and "undercover," despite not being abroad at the time of her outing.

Plame then said she was honored to testify and "grateful for this opportunity to set the record straight."

She said she had served her country "honorably and as a covert agent" until her name was exposed in the media "after a leak by administration officials." Both the CIA and Plame declared that she was "covert" on the day Robert Novak outed her in a column in 2003.

She said she had worked as a covert officer and classified position on Iraq's presumed WMD programs in the runup to war. While working out of Washington she also traveled to foreign countries on vital missions: "I was dedicated to this work. It was not common knowledge on the Georgetown cocktail circuit that everyone knew where I worked....But all that service was abruptly ended when my name was disclosed."

She was"shocked" with news that emerged in the Libby trial. Administration officials knew about her working at the CIA and should have been "diligent" to protect that. "The harm that is done when a CIA's cover is blown is grave," she said. She referred to the "travesty of what happened to me."

Noting that the CIA tries to hide identities from foreign officials, she found it "a terrible irony that it was administration officials who destroyed my cover." She added: "My exposure arose from purely political motives."

She denounced the "creeping, insidious politicizing of intelligence operations....politics and ideology must be stripped from our intelligence services." That's why she was happy to assist Congress, she said.

After her five-minute statement, Plame answered questions. She said no one -- such as Vice President Cheney, or Scooter Libby or Karl Rove -- approached her
to ask if her name could be disclosed.

Asked if she had any theories on who told Rove about her status, she declined to speculate.

How did she feel about Rove telling Chris Matthews that she was "fair game." She said she would feel awful about hearing that about any CIA agent.

She said no one who had leaked her name had expressed any apology or misgivings to her.

Questions from the Republican side raised issues about whether those who leaked her name knew she was covert. She said she they should ask the federal prosecutor about that.

Asked about the famous Vanity Fair photo of her, she said her identify had already been "blown" by the end of 2003.

Former prosecutor Victoria Toensing, who has long claimed that Plame was not "covert," will testify later today.

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