Valerie Plame Book Deal in Jeopardy

Posted on January 8, 2007

Michael Isikoff of Newsweek reports that outed CIA spy Valerie Plame has hit a snag in her proposed book deal. The CIA's Publications Review Board must approve any book by a past or present CIA officer and the Board is being really tough on Plame. Punatively tough, say some. For example, the Board has ridiculously forbade her from saying she ever worked for the CIA, despite the fact that her secret employment has been headline news in every major media outlet for three years.

A CIA panel has told former officer Valerie Plame she can't write about her undercover work for the agency, a position that may threaten a lucrative book project with her publisher. Plame's outing as a CIA officer in July 2003 triggered a criminal probe that culminates next week when Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby goes on trial for perjury and obstruction.

But in what could be a precursor to a separate legal battle, Plame recently hired a lawyer to challenge the CIA Publications Review Board, which must clear writings by former employees. The panel refused Plame permission to even mention that she worked for the CIA because she served as a "nonofficial cover" officer (or NOC) posing as a private businesswoman, according to an adviser to Plame, who asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive issue. "She believes this will effectively gut the book," said the adviser. Larry Johnson, a former colleague, said the agency's action seems punitive, given that other ex-CIA undercover officers have published books. But even Plame's friends acknowledge that few NOCs have done so. CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the panel was still having "ongoing" talks with Plame to resolve the dispute. "The sole yardstick," he said, is that books "contain no classified information." A spokesman for Simon & Schuster, Plame's publisher, declined to comment.

So long as she doesn't reveal classified information, she should be allowed to publish the book. After all, it certainly wasn't her fault that her cover was blown, effectively ending her career -- she has to make a living somehow.

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