Valerie Plame Can’t Publish Dates of CIA Service

A federal judge has backed the CIA’s bid to keep Valerie Plame Wilson from disclosing the length of her CIA service, despite it being publicly available information.

Valerie Wilson may be the best known former intelligence operative in recent history, but a federal judge in New York ruled Wednesday that she was not allowed to say how long she worked for the Central Intelligence Agency in the memoir she plans to publish this fall.

Although the fact that Ms. Wilson worked for the C.I.A. from 1985 to 2006 has been published in the Congressional Record and elsewhere, the judge, Barbara S. Jones of Federal District Court in Manhattan, said Ms. Wilson was not free to say so. “The information at issue was properly classified, was never declassified and has not been officially acknowledged by the C.I.A.,” Judge Jones wrote.

[…]

Judge Jones acknowledged that the C.I.A. “does not contest that the information is, in fact, in the public domain,” adding that “the public may draw whatever conclusions it might from the fact that the information at issue was sent on C.I.A. letterhead by the chief of retirement and insurance services.”

But she said a classified court filing from Stephen R. Kappes, the deputy director of the C.I.A., which lawyers for Ms. Wilson and her publisher were not allowed to see, contained a reasonable explanation for the agency’s position. Judge Jones did not reveal it, saying only that Mr. Kappes has persuaded her of “the harm to national security which reasonably could be expected if the C.I.A. were to acknowledge the veracity of the information at issue.”

The judge’s ruling is almost certainly legally correct, although the result seems bizarre. Obviously, Kappes hasn’t shared his reasoning with me. I can’t fathom, however, what it might have been.

Book Blog had this coverage back in January:

The [CIA’s Publications Review Board] refused Plame permission to even mention that she worked for the CIA because she served as a “nonofficial cover” officer (or NOC) posing as a private businesswoman, according to an adviser to Plame, who asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive issue. “She believes this will effectively gut the book,” said the adviser. Larry Johnson, a former colleague, said the agency’s action seems punitive, given that other ex-CIA undercover officers have published books. But even Plame’s friends acknowledge that few NOCs have done so. CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the panel was still having “ongoing” talks with Plame to resolve the dispute. “The sole yardstick,” he said, is that books “contain no classified information.”

That she worked as a NOC is public information, solely because the CIA chose to make it so. Therefore, keeping it classified appears awfully silly.

Were Plame/Wilson seeking to publish juicy details of classified ops, reveal trade secrets, or the like, they should obviously be allowed to stop her. But the dates of her employment? Even aside from the Congressional Record, her retirement announcement received worldwide attention.

via Taegan Goddard

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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.