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THE NATION

Plame Is Set to Leave the CIA

The operative whose covert identity was revealed in a 2003 column wants to spend more time with her family, friends say.

December 06, 2005|Richard B. Schmitt | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Valerie Plame, the diplomat's wife whose secret resume was exposed in a newspaper column that eventually led to the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, is leaving the CIA on Friday, people familiar with her plans said.

Plame, 42, worked undercover for the CIA tracking weapons proliferation but saw her clandestine career imperiled after she was identified as an agency operative in the summer of 2003 in a syndicated column by Robert Novak.

Friends said the mother of 5-year-old twins wanted to spend more time with her family, and that although she agreed to be photographed last year with her husband for an article about the case in Vanity Fair magazine, she had no plans to speak out.

There has also been speculation that she would file a civil lawsuit against the Bush administration contending that it leaked her identity and damaged her career.

"She did not have a career left," said Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA officer and a friend of Plame since the two were in the same agency training class in the 1980s. "She was no longer able to work as a clandestine officer, which was her reason for being."

Johnson said that although Plame still had allies at the agency, her ability to function effectively was irreparably harmed after her status became publicly known.

"She is either a non-entity or radioactive," Johnson said. "Getting connected with her is not something that is going to enhance your career. She has been something of a leper."

Plame has been with the CIA for 20 years; the decision to leave makes her eligible to collect retirement benefits in the future, Johnson said. Her effective retirement date will be in January, but her last day at work will be Friday.

Plame is married to Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, who was sent by the CIA to Africa in February 2002 to evaluate claims that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy weapons-grade uranium in Niger. Wilson found the claims unverifiable and publicly criticized the intelligence used by the administration to justify the war against Iraq.

Administration officials began a campaign to discredit Wilson and identified Plame in conversations with several journalists, potentially violating a law against unmasking undercover agents. A federal grand jury recently indicted former Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges that he repeatedly lied to investigators.

A Justice Department special prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is continuing to investigate, and among his potential targets are White House political advisor Karl Rove, who has acknowledged being a source for the July 14, 2003, Novak column that named Plame.

Fitzgerald has indicated that he plans to present evidence to a new grand jury soon. He is to interview Time magazine correspondent Viveca Novak this week about a conversation she had last year with Robert D. Luskin, Rove's lawyer. Time's Novak is not related to the columnist.

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