Was Plame really a covert operative? Yes, but this will be difficult to officially confirm and there will be debates as to just how covert she really was, and what real harm was done by outing her.
But is that really true?
Bob Novak, in the infamous 14 July 2003 column, refers to her imprecisely as an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. The word operative suggests that Valerie Plame was an officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, and a covert agent, working undercover on hazardous overseas assignments.
Valerie Plame was working in the Directorate of Operations, but she was working domestically in the DO Counterproliferation Division (CPD).
corrected 1 May 2006.
The MSM made much of Valerie Plame’s Brewster Jennings & Associates cover. The reality is not that Mrs. Wilson infiltrated the barbed-wire fortified boundary of a hostile foreign state, trusting for protection in her forged Brewster-Jennings parking permit. She merely listed that imaginary firm as her employer in connection with a 1999 one thousand dollar campaign donation to Al Gore. It appears that the reality is that “Brewster-Jennings” was merely a general purpose CIA front address, established in 1994, and available to numerous CIA personnel for use as a very modest form of employment camouflage.
The real case for prosecuting the leak of Valerie Plame’s CIA employment is based on the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which defines the protected category of covert agent as:
The term “covert agent” means—
(A) a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency—
(i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and
(ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States; or
(B) a United States citizen whose intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information, and—
(i) who resides and acts outside the United States as an agent of, or informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency, or
(ii) who is at the time of the disclosure acting as an agent of, or informant to, the foreign counterintelligence or foreign counterterrorism components of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; or
(C) an individual, other than a United States citizen, whose past or present intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information and who is a present or former agent of, or a present or former informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency.
She obviously was not serving outside the United States at the time of the publication of the Novak column, so the basic question for a Special Counsel ought to have been: did Valerie Plame Wilson within the five years prior to 14 July 2003 really serve on CIA assignment outside the United States? If she did not, he ought to have packed his bags, closed the investigation, and gone back home to Chicago.