CNN Continues to Refer to Plame as an “Undercover CIA Operative”

October 27th, 2005 11:40 AM

In a report last night on CNN’s “Newsnight,” David Ensor continually referred to CIA employee Valerie Plame as being “undercover.” In fact, the entire report was about the dire consequences to the agency as a whole as a result of such an "outing," as well as to Plame:

“Forty-two-year-old Valerie Plame Wilson, whose husband referred to her as 'Jane Bond,' is clearly now the most famous female spy in America. Exposing her as a CIA undercover officer did damage to U.S. intelligence, U.S. officials say. They refuse to be more specific.”

Unfortunately, nowhere in the report did Ensor relay to the viewer that Plame has not been undercover since 1997, and, instead, has been working for the CIA on American soil ever since. In fact, as reported by USA Today back in July 2004:

“In The Politics of Truth, former ambassador Joseph Wilson writes that he and his future wife both returned from overseas assignments in June 1997. Neither spouse, a reading of the book indicates, was again stationed overseas. They appear to have remained in Washington, D.C., where they married and became parents of twins.”

Such an omission, along with the grave tenor of this report, potentially gave the viewer the impression that Plame’s life had been jeopardized by these events, and that the work of the CIA has similarly been compromised.

What follows is a full transcript of this report, and a video link. 

AARON BROWN: Sometimes, we can all forget that this isn't simply a political story. It is about something else. Valerie Plame at one time in her life was an undercover CIA operative, and her cover was blown. And there are implications for that, that extend far beyond the sometimes petty give-and-take of Washington politics.

Here's CNN's David Ensor.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forty-two-year-old Valerie Plame Wilson, whose husband referred to her as "Jane Bond," is clearly now the most famous female spy in America. Exposing her as a CIA undercover officer did damage to U.S. intelligence, U.S. officials say. They refuse to be more specific.

MICHAEL SCHEUER, FORMER CIA ANALYST: To have someone exposed deliberately and, on top of that, for a political reason, I -- I think, yes, it probably sent a chill throughout the clandestine service.

ENSOR: What made it worse is that she was not just an undercover officer. She spent part of her 20-year career as a NOC, a spy with non-official cover, that is, without the protection of diplomatic status. She was working, officials say, to recruit foreigners who knew about murky international deals involving weapons of mass destruction.

But potential foreign agents, potential spies, have now seen a CIA officer apparently betrayed by officials in her own government. 

JAMES MARCINKOWSKI, FORMER CIA OFFICER: The issue here is, how are you going to tell that agent that their identity is going to be protected, when this government can't protect the home team?

ENSOR: And if any other CIA officers used the same cover as Plame, their work is in jeopardy, too. That cover was Brewster Jennings Associates, an energy consulting firm, a front company that apparently had no real address.

NOCs are harder to train, can remain undercover longer than conventional spies, and can go places and meet people that other CIA officers cannot. Some of them, like Plame, use loose cover, a false job. Others under deep cover use false names as well, complete fictional identities with forged documents, even disguises.

But NOCs are also much more vulnerable than regular spies. And intelligence sources developed by a CIA undercover officer are immediately in question if that officer is exposed.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The consequences for the U.S. government can range from embarrassment to having to pull the source out of an area because they have become jeopardized by this knowledge.

ENSOR: After her name appeared in Robert Novak's newspaper column, at least two foreign governments reportedly assigned their spy-catchers to figure out whether Plame had ever worked on their soil, and, if so, what she'd done there.

(on camera): And that is where the most damage likely done, other nations tracking down Valerie Plame-Wilson's contacts and sources and shutting them down.

David Ensor, CNN, Washington. 

Video Link