Richard Leiby and Dana Priest continue WaPo’s coverage of the Plame scandal in today’s edition. This particular piece does a good job of explaining the nature of her covert role.

Plame was recruited by the agency shortly after graduation from Pennsylvania State University, sources said. She later earned two master’s degrees, one from the London School of Economics and one from the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium.

Plame underwent training at “The Farm,” as the facility near Williamsburg, Va., is known to its graduates. As part of her courses, the new spy was taken hostage and taught how to reduce messages to microdots. She became expert at firing an AK-47. She learned to blow up cars and drive under fire — all to see if she could handle the rigors of being an undercover case officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, or DO. Fellow graduates recall that off-hours included a trip to the movies to watch the Dan Aykroyd parody “Spies Like Us.”

Plame also learned how to recruit foreign nationals to serve as spies, and how to hunt others and evade those who would hunt her — some who might look as harmless as she herself does now as a mom with a model’s poise and shoulder-length blond hair.

Her activities during her years overseas remain classified, but she became the creme de la creme of spies: a “noc,” an officer with “nonofficial cover.” Nocs have cover jobs that have nothing to do with the U.S. government. They work in business, in social clubs, as scientists or secretaries (they are prohibited from posing as journalists), and if detected or arrested by a foreign government, they do not have diplomatic protection and rights. They are on their own. Even their fellow operatives don’t know who they are, and only the strongest and smartest are picked for these assignments.


For the past several years, she has served as an operations officer working as a weapons proliferation analyst. She told neighbors, friends and even some of her CIA colleagues that she was an “energy consultant.” She lived behind a facade even after she returned from abroad. It included a Boston front company named Brewster-Jennings & Associates, which she listed as her employer on a 1999 form in Federal Election Commission records for her $1,000 contribution to Al Gore’s presidential primary campaign.


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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. JohnC says:

    Uh, yea. Not anything at all like the RWAP has been portraying here, eh? Pretty much blows away everything people have been trying to do in downplaying the issue.

  2. James Joyner says:

    The problem is that the reporting on all this has been pretty sloppy, leading to a lot of speculation.

  3. JohnC says:

    Well, I wouldn’t call it sloppy. All along, there have been two camps. One which thought it was a serious crime right off the bat and that the CIA likely knew just that – or they wouldn’t have told Justice that national security was severely damaged. The other camp was spinning madly. “She’s an analyst, not an agent.” “She’s really nothing and no crime was committed.” “The real crime is why Wilson was picked to go to Niger in the first place.”

    The sloppiness was purposeful. It’s one thing to speculate and not know anything. It’s quite another to spin around and around trying to make light of the story when the facts that we *did* know point to a serious crime.

    I mean, really. Look at what the NR, WSJ, Sully, Reynolds and a host of others tried to do. That’s not sloppy, that’s pure political hacking of the group mind. Intentional. A pretty blatant, partisan attempt at trying to completely downplay the entire issue.

  4. Paul says:

    John the word disingenuous can not even come CLOSE to describing your remarks.

    You are possibly the worst political hack spinner I have ever encountered. (not just in that you do it a lot, but you are bad at it too.) Yet now you complain about people spinning?

    Yes there were two camps.

    There was one camp that said “Huh, I don’t understand what they say happened but it sounds like it could be serious.”

    And the other camp said: “SERIOUS? What do you mean serious? Of course this is serious, an agent almost died because of Bush wanting to extract revenge on this guy. Bush should be impeached.” Oh and by the way, Bush is the Devil.

    The first 10 reports on this made no sense. This is the first one that comes close to making any sense. Yet the “innocent into they are proven guilty” liberal crowd had convicted Bush.

    Look, being a left wing thoughtless partisan hack is OK but admit to it and don’t accuse others of doing it.


    And notice the difference in the administrations. When something goes wrong in the Bush White house and the DOJ says they want answers in 2 weeks, Bush sets his staff’s deadline at 2 days.

    Compare that to the mysteriously disappearing then reappearing billing records that magically reappeared on a table in the Whitehouse with Hillary’s fingerprints on them.

    No comparison.

  5. JohnC says:

    Boy, Paul, you really are deluded. Keep bringing up Hillary (I love it when you do that). And the “2 weeks” is actually 2 months of not doing anything and then saying “we’ll never find them”. Which, I guess is pretty much what GW says about every national security problem. Still haven’t found bin Laden. Still haven’t found Saddam.

    But, again, I’m only counting the “criticism” (read hack political spin spewed forth from someone who has the logical sense of a round worm) as another mark of honor.

    Keep ’em coming. Tell me again how the problems in Iraq are really just a problem of the liberal bias of the press.

    I just love to hear you spew on that subject.

  6. Paul says:

    You can call lots of names.. it is what you are best at.

    Sadly though.. None of that changes the facts.


  7. JohnC says:

    So, Paul, why doesn’t the President clear all this up right now? If the President is the kind of guy you proclaim he is, why hasn’t he just done the what Michael Ham suggested over at Kleiman’s blog. Sorry for quoting it here, but it’s such a simple and effective suggestion that I’d like to get Paul’s take on it.

    The President should require every official in his administration at Executive Level II or higher (that’s cabinet secretaries and their immediate deputies, plus others of equivalent rank) to submit, within 48 hours, either a sworn statement that he or she had no discussion mentioning Joseph Wilson’s wife with any reporter in the period before July 14, 2003 (the date of the first Novak column) and has no knowledge of anyone who did have such discussions, or a sworn statement listing any such discussions as that person did have or any knowledge that person has regarding such discussions by other persons.

    So, Paul, the question I have for you is why didn’t the President do such a simple thing the moment he heard about this breach of national security?

    Or are you still sticking to the line that it wasn’t a major breach of national security?

    Inquiring minds want to know…

  8. Anonymous says:

    What a moronic thing to ask…

    OK so they get a few hundred pieces of paper that say “not me.”

    What does that prove?

    What you have here is a classic red herring. Ham can’t come up with a legitimate complaint about the way the way Bush is handling it so he invents a meaningless test and claims the Prez failed it.

    Ok, so I have a question for you…

    Why didn’t Hillary turn over the billing records when they were subpoenaed?

    My point to asking the question is this… For 10 years we have had every democrat in the country defending the most criminal administration in this county’s history. Suddenly when it is a republican they have a zero tolerance stance on corruption? John, it is laughable.

    [world renowned democrat] Susan Estrich made this point the other day. She said she spent a decade defending Clinton from far worse sex charges than those leveled against Arnold and now the Dems say he is unfit for office because of this behavior?

    Referring to that and other things the Dems are doing lately she said: “The Democrats need to do something. Defending the indefeasible is getting tough.

    Of course she is smart enough to see it — many aren’t.