Couric Previews Valerie Plame Interview, No Mention of Leaker Armitage

Perhaps one of the most distorted stories in recent mainstream media history, the Valerie Plame CIA leak controversy, has become even more so with Plame’s upcoming "60 Minutes" interview with CBS Anchor, Katie Couric. On Friday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked with Couric about the interview and began by describing Plame as "...beautiful, smart, a covert agent."

Smith then went on to summarize the media-manufactured scandal that ensued after Plame’s name was mentioned in Bob Novak's syndicated column:

Speculation was rampant that the leaking of her name, which is a crime, came from inside the Bush Administration, in retaliation for her husband's column. The leak grew into a scandal that embroiled the political elite in Washington....When it was all over, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was charged and convicted of lying to investigators and obstruction of justice. President Bush later commuted sentence, no one was ever charged with knowingly leaking Valerie Plame's name.

The problem with this little summary is that it completely leaves out the fact that person responsible for giving Plame’s name to Novak was former Undersecretary of State, Richard Armitage, who mentioned her name in an interview with Novak and was never charged with any crime. Also missing was any indication of her husband, Joe Wilson, being a Kerry Campaign advisor in 2004.

Couric had nothing but praise for Plame: "She's very charming, incredibly intelligent and eloquent."

Not only did Smith and Couric fawn over Plame, but Smith expressed how "Valerie Plame spent nearly 20 years in the shadows of the CIA. Then suddenly, she became a public figure. But she's never told her own story, until now." In a preview clip of the "60 Minutes" interview, Couric sympathetically described how "...18 years of meticulously crafted cover were gone in an instant." Both Smith and Couric seem to have forgotten how quickly Plame and her husband were to relish the lime light with a "Vanity Fair" cover story, where even Plame admitted: "I did not listen to my instincts and threw my extreme caution about public exposure to the wind," according to an Associated Press story on Plame’s new book this past Wednesday. That incident was soon followed by Joe Wilson becoming a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election. Plame's book is but one more example of her willingness to make herself a public figure, not to mention a potential movie deal to follow.

Couric also made sure to voice Plame’s conspiracy theories about who was responsible:

She would contend that this was part of a smear campaign against her, that by minimizing her role at the CIA, by diminishing and, quite frankly, by demeaning her position, which was quite high, she was head of operations for the joint task force Iraq, which was charged with finding nuclear weapons. So, I think that she would just refute that whole notion that everybody knew this was the case...[discussing removed parts of Plame’s book by the CIA] Redacted. That's right. About 10%. And again, Valerie Plame feels this is political payback for criticizing the pre-war intelligence and the buildup to Iraq. She claims there's no classified material that was redacted...

Here is the full transcript of the 7:30am interview:

SMITH: "First, though, Valerie Plame spent nearly 20 years in the shadows of the CIA. Then suddenly, she became a public figure. But she's never told her own story, until now. Her life story reads like a spy novel. She is beautiful, smart, a covert agent. She became the center of a political scandal when her husband, career diplomat Joe Wilson, wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" claiming the Bush Administration distorted intelligence about Iraq's efforts to obtain uranium in Africa. Eight days later, Robert Novak revealed her identify as an undercover CIA agent in his syndicated column. Speculation was rampant that the leaking of her name, which is a crime, came from inside the Bush Administration, in retaliation for her husband's column. The leak grew into a scandal that embroiled the political elite in Washington. And journalists who spent their careers protecting the identity of their sources were faced with a choice of naming names or going to jail. When it was all over, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was charged and convicted of lying to investigators and obstruction of justice. President Bush later commuted sentence, no one was ever charged with knowingly leaking Valerie Plame's name. Valerie Plame gave her first-ever interview to "CBS Evening News" Anchor and "60 Minutes" Correspondent, Katie Couric. I spoke to Katie earlier about it. This interview, everybody in the world has wanted this interview. This is the interview. First off, what was she like?"

KATIE COURIC: "She's very charming, incredibly intelligent and eloquent."

SMITH: "Hmm."

COURIC: "And really mad about what happened to her, angry and resentful of being outed, if you will, having her career end this way. And she expresses it, you know, pretty openly."

SMITH: "Yeah. In the interview and in the book."

COURIC: "Yes."

SMITH: "Here's what I want to know -- her husband writes, Joe Wilson, writes this op-ed piece for "The New York Times" basically saying the Bush Administration got it all wrong, cooked the books on this uranium going into Niger."

COURIC: "Right."

SMITH: "And he writes this piece. Is she -- what is she thinking?"

COURIC: "Well, she knew about it. She knew he was going to submit it to "The New York Times." She knew that he had gone to Niger and found that the charges that Iraq was buying uranium ore from Niger were false, in his opinion."

SMITH: "Right."

COURIC: "And I asked her that, Harry, because I said weren't you afraid your two worlds were going to collide, that this was going to really put you in jeopardy? And she said absolutely not. I have lived my cover. I was living my cover. Nobody knew I worked for the CIA except an extremely small circle of people, i.e., I believe her parents and the people with whom she worked."

SMITH: "Yeah. What about the allegation, though? Because there were all these allegations that came out after the fact, people in Washington, these insiders say everybody knew she was in the CIA, everybody knew that she was a covert op. She wasn't outed at all."

COURIC: "She would contend that this was part of a smear campaign against her, that by minimizing her role at the CIA, by diminishing and, quite frankly, by demeaning her position, which was quite high, she was head of operations for the joint task force Iraq, which was charged with finding nuclear weapons. So, I think that she would just refute that whole notion that everybody knew this was the case."

SMITH: "Yeah. I want to take a look at another clip of the interview. Take a look at this."

COURIC: "Eight days after Joe Wilson's op-ed piece, his wife's name and CIA affiliation were printed in a newspaper by conservative columnist Robert Novak. 18 years of meticulously crafted cover were gone in an instant."

VALERIE PLAME: "I can tell you all the intelligence services in the world that morning were running my name through their databases to see did anyone by this name come in the country, when, do we know anything about it, where did she stay, who did she see."

COURIC: "And what would be the ramifications of that?"

PLAME: "Well, it's very serious. It puts in danger, if not shuts down, the operations that I'd worked on."

COURIC: "Did you ever hear about anything that happened to anyone with whom you had contact as a result of the leak?"

PLAME: "Yes, I have, and that's all I can say. Mm-hmm."

COURIC: "Was it bad news?"

PLAME: "That's -- I have heard. I have had some news."

COURIC: "Is it safe to say people were put in danger?"

PLAME: "There was a damage report done by the CIA. I never saw it. I certainly didn't reach out to my old assets and ask them how they're doing, although I would have liked to have."

COURIC: "You probably can speculate about the damage, though."

PLAME: "Mm-hmm."

COURIC: "If you had to write your own damage assessment, knowing what you know, how serious would it be?"

PLAME: "It would be serious."

SMITH: "There were whole sections of the book, the CIA --"

COURIC: "Redacted. That's right. About 10%. And again, Valerie Plame feels this is political payback for criticizing the pre-war intelligence and the buildup to Iraq. She claims there's no classified material that was redacted, but this is a process that books written by CIA agents go through."

SMITH: "Routinely, right, right, right. Cannot wait to see this on "60 Minutes."

COURIC: "Really?"

SMITH: "Yeah."

COURIC: "Thanks, Harry."

SMITH: "Yeah, absolutely. Katie Couric, always a pleasure to see you. You can see Katie's interview with Valerie Plame on "60 Minutes," this Sunday night at 7:00, 6:00 central, right here on CBS."

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC