Hollywood Lies About Plame

The editors of the Washington Post want you to know that "Fair Game," the new movie about the Valerie Plame affair, is "Hollywood myth making." Propaganda and lies is more like it.

The editors of the Washington Post want you to know that “Fair Game,” the new movie about the Valerie Plame affair, is “Hollywood myth making.”  Propaganda and lies is more like it.

Said Mr. Wilson: “For people who have short memories or don’t read, this is the only way they will remember that period.”

We certainly hope that is not the case. In fact, “Fair Game,” based on books by Mr. Wilson and his wife, is full of distortions – not to mention outright inventions. To start with the most sensational: The movie portrays Ms. Plame as having cultivated a group of Iraqi scientists and arranged for them to leave the country, and it suggests that once her cover was blown, the operation was aborted and the scientists were abandoned. This is simply false. In reality, as The Post’s Walter Pincus and Richard Leiby reported, Ms. Plame did not work directly on the program, and it was not shut down because of her identification.

The movie portrays Mr. Wilson as a whistle-blower who debunked a Bush administration claim that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country of Niger. In fact, an investigation by the Senate intelligence committee found that Mr. Wilson’s reporting did not affect the intelligence community’s view on the matter, and an official British investigation found that President George W. Bush’s statement in a State of the Union address that Britain believed that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger was well-founded.

“Fair Game” also resells the couple’s story that Ms. Plame’s exposure was the result of a White House conspiracy. A lengthy and wasteful investigation by a special prosecutor found no such conspiracy – but it did confirm that the prime source of a newspaper column identifying Ms. Plame was a State Department official, not a White House political operative.

But other than that . . . .

The sad truth of the matter, though, is that Wilson is right:  Fictional accounts of what happened will largely govern how people remember this.  The details of the actual incident were murky and dribbled out over a long period.  And, of course, people naturally filtered information through their “George W. Bush” lens. Separating truth from fiction is very difficult under those circumstances.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Popular Culture, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. sam says:

    I dunno James. The Pincus-Leiby story says:

    “As reporters who covered the Plame CIA leak affair, as it came to be known, we compared the reality of what unfolded in Washington in that era against the events that the screenwriters and director of “Fair Game” boiled into their narrative. The movie holds up as a thoroughly researched and essentially accurate account — albeit with caveats.”


    “First, a primer. Flash back to February 2002, when then-Vice President Dick Cheney questioned his CIA briefer about some intelligence claiming that Iraq sought to buy 500 tons of uranium ore from Niger to build a nuclear weapon. The agency sent Joe Wilson, a former ambassador with experience in both Baghdad and Niger, to run down the allegation, originally obtained by the Italian intelligence service from a note that turned out to be a forgery. Wilson debunked it.”

    It, being the claim that Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Niger.

    As for getting some things wrong, the “caveats”, the writers were, in a sense, stymied by Plame’s patriotism:

    “Valerie Plame Wilson could not by law talk to screenwriters about her covert career — “she would never betray the agency,” director Douglas Liman said — so her part of the story had to be constructed from other sources, including former intelligence officers. Aware that he was dealing with “people trained in subterfuge,” Liman said he is confident he still captured the classified activities accurately.”

    At the end of it all, the Niger-uranium story was bullshit, the premises of the Iraq war were bullshit, and a loyal CIA NOC was outed.

  2. sam says:

    See, “established facts are willfully ignored” over at John Cole’s place for another take on that editorial.

  3. Mithras says:

    The Right is always going to believe their invasion of Iraq was justified; therefore, they will always believe Bush (a) actually believed the Iraqis posed an actual WMD (really, nuclear) threat and (b) was justified in that belief.

  4. William Teach says:

    Not sure if you can really call the movie “new”, since it was released November 5th, and has already tanked, earning a whopping $12 million worldwide, with a production cost of $22 million.

  5. jukeboxgrad says:

    James, you and Fred Hiatt are both wrong. There are a number of places where you can find out why. Like here:


  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Sam, you are wrong. But not amount of information would change your mind because you will only accept what fits your beliefs. Information exists which proves without doubt all that Bush believed abouit Iraq. Kind of like whether or not Obama is eligable to be President. It is not about where he was born but where his father was born. Good misdirection there. Joe Wilson was and is a liar.

  7. jukeboxgrad says:

    “It is not about where he was born but where his father was born.”

    That’s good to know. Romney’s father was born in Mexico. And I suppose you know for sure where Palin’s father was born? You’ve seen the birth certificate, right?