Valerie Plame’s Modern Odyssey (and Cautionary Tale) of Speaking Truth to Power

Dr. Chris E. Stout
8 min readNov 1, 2023
Photo Credit Jay Hemphill

On July 6, 2003, four months after the United States invaded Iraq, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s now historic op-ed, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” appeared in The New York Times. A week later, conservative pundit Robert Novak revealed in his newspaper column that Ambassador Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative.

Valerie had been serving as a covert operations officer for the CIA, and her occupation and identity had been a classified secret, even from her closest family and friends. It was payback for her then husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, questioning the administration’s primary rationale for the Iraq war. It ended her covert career and set off a political scandal that rocked the Bush/Cheney White House.

The public disclosure of that secret information spurred a federal investigation and led to the trial and conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, and the Wilsons’ civil suit against top officials of the Bush administration.

Valerie had worked to protect America’s national security and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in particular, nuclear weapons. All that ended, with the public disclosure.

During her career with the CIA, Valerie managed top-secret covert programs designed to keep terrorists and rogue nation states from acquiring nuclear weapons. This involved decision making at senior levels, recruiting foreign assets, deploying resources around the world, managing multi-million dollar budgets, briefing US policy-makers, and demonstrating consistently solid judgment in a field where mistakes could prove disastrous. She was also involved in covert cyber operations and counterterrorism efforts.

Today, Valerie is on the boards of Global Data Security, a cyber security company that safeguards digital data streaming, and Starling Trust, a predictive behavioral analytics company that interprets and forecasts behavioral trends. She has served on the nonprofit boards of The Ploughshares Fund, Global Zero, the United Way of Santa Fe County, Penn State School of International Affairs, and Postpartum Support International. Valerie is affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute, the trans-disciplinary scientific think tank…