From undercover to spotlight

Ex-CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson calls her outing an act of treason and tells how her life was upended.

By Amber Mobley, Times Staff Writer
Published February 13, 2008

TAMPA - Valerie Plame Wilson imagined herself having a lifelong career in the CIA.

But now, her covert identity revealed, she's out of the agency, back from overseas, and living in New Mexico, adjusting to life as a political celebrity.

"If none of this would've happened, I would be working overseas, living with my family," she told a crowd of hundreds Tuesday night at the University of South Florida. "I went from being a very private person to being this very public persona."

But, she said, her is experience is a "mere inconvenience compared to that of the families of those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Calling herself a victim of treason by the Bush administration, Wilson urged her listeners to get active and change the environment in Washington in the coming election. "This democracy is only as strong as our citizens are willing to make it," she said.

She and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, have endorsed and campaigned for Hillary Rodham Clinton, a fact she reiterated during the speech. Comparing her experience to Democratic rival Barack Obama's, she said it was a matter of "chess vs. checkers."

Her criticisms of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, drew standing ovations.

In 2003, Robert Novak identified Wilson in a column written in response to an op-ed piece written by her husband. Joseph Wilson had called the Bush administration's claims for going to war against Iraq unreliable.

Her exposure incited a firestorm and a criminal investigation that eventually led to Libby's conviction for lying and obstructing justice. The outing made it impossible for her to work undercover, she said.

Despite her experience, she encouraged USF students to consider public service. "This country needs smart, young, patriotic people like yourselves."

Amber Mobley can be reached at amobley@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.