“Fair Game” Cries No Fair in Spy Game
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
You read the headlines: Back in 2003 the wife of a respected diplomat was outed as a CIA agent.
Purportedly this was Dick Cheney’s revenge for Joe Wilson’s New York Times op-ed piece challenging the administration’s Weapons of Mass Destruction excuse for invading Iraq.
Former Ambassador Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame was known to her friends as a quiet suburban housewife, while in fact she’d been running a team of CIA assets in the Middle East. Talk about secret lives. But that’s the spy game.
This illegal revelation about Valerie Plame threatened her and her family, not to mention a network of CIA agents and informants. No fair, her husband cried, setting off what has been called Plamegate along with a series of ethical debates and lawsuits.
“Fair Game,” the movie version of those events, is currently revealing all at the Tropic Cinema.
Blonde and demure, Naomi Waits stars as Valerie. Sean Penn takes on the role of her husband Joseph C. Wilson IV. She’s calm and cool; he fumes and rages. Both actors play off each other with a precision that bespeaks their third movie together.
The real-life story: As a covert officer in the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division, Valerie was looking into the rumor that Iraq was buying enriched uranium from Niger. When the CIA enlisted her husband’s help in the investigation, he came up dry. And said so – writing in a July 2003 New York Times op-ed piece titled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” that “some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”
A few days later, Washington Post columnist Robert Novak reported that “Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate.”
The CIA was unhappy to have one of its covert officers exposed. The director asked the Justice Department to investigate. President George W. Bush admitted there had been “a leak” from his administration about Plame. “I want to know who it is,” he said. “And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of.”
According to grand jury testimony, it was Bush administration officials Richard Armitage, Karl Rove, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby who unveiled then-classified CIA officer Valerie E. Wilson (A/K/A Valerie Plame) to members of the press.
Key West’s Tim Gratz knew Rove in college, when both worked for the Young Republicans, putting on seminars in Wisconsin. Tim describes Rove as “a friend of mine” and defends him, saying, “It is my understanding that Rove had nothing to do with it. Rove spent a huge amount of money on legal fees defending himself. Rove tells a dramatic story how the lawyer finally cleared him through a very intense scrutiny of old Rove e-mails.”
Tim adds, “In College Republican politics both Rove and I had reputations as being ‘squishy,’ not true conservatives. Most people find that hard to believe about Rove but I guess it really shows how far right the College Republican leadership was. We used to wear buttons that read ‘Nuke Hanoi.’”
As for Scooter Libby, he was sentenced to thirty months in prison for perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements, but this sentence was commuted as being “excessive” by President Bush.
Libby admitted he had discussed leaking Valerie Plame’s CIA status to reporters with Vice President Dick Cheney during a July 12, 2003, trip aboard Air Force Two. He told investigators that the President of the United States via Cheney had ordered him to leak the classified information about Plame in order to bolster the case for the Iraq War.
Armitage, second-in-command at the State Department, was identified as the “primary” source who spoke with reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Novak. But he was never charged, having cooperated with the investigators who “found no evidence that Armitage knew of Plame’s covert CIA status when he talked to Novak and Woodward.”
The Wilsons brought a civil law suit against Cheney, Libby, Rove, and Armitage on July 19, 2007. However, Wilson v Cheney was subsequently dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
The film is based both on Valerie Plame’s memoir, “Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House,” and her husband’s memoir, “The Politics of Truth.” The title for Plame’s book comes from TV correspondent Chris Matthews: “I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says, and I quote, ‘Wilson’s wife is fair game.’” Rove later denied saying it.
As for the movie version of “Fair Game,” director Doug Liman knows how to turn a newspaper headline into an exciting spy thriller. After all, he gave us that heart-pounding rendition of “The Bourne Identity” with Matt Damon.
Even so, the film hovers between being a biopic and a thriller, not quite making up its mind. Nonetheless, moviegoers have been satisfied. One summed it up this way: “If you view Doug Liman's ‘Fair Game’ outside of the politics and controversy around what actually happened, what you get is a solidly directed, well scripted, fantastically acted domestic drama where the wife just happens to be a spy.”
As for the Wilsons’ lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. “This decision means that government officials can abuse their power for political purposes without fear of repercussion,” responded the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Private citizens like the Wilsons, who see their careers destroyed and their lives placed in jeopardy by administration officials seeking to score political points and silence opposition, have no recourse.”
Two years ago Joe Wilson joined a private equity fund as vice chairman, to advise the firm’s expansion in areas of Africa considered “politically sensitive.” Valerie is reportedly a housewife in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
You can check: Valerie is not listed as an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. But then again, as a covert operator, she never was.
[from Solares Hill]