Valerie Plame is an American Central Intelligence Agency employee whose identification as a CIA "operative" was made public by columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. (He actually filed his story with AP on July 11). The outing sparked a Justice Department investigation into possible violation of U.S. criminal law regarding exposure of covert government agents.
Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, was identified as a CIA "operative" by Novak, who wrote "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate" the allegation.
According to Novak, "The White House, State Department and Pentagon and not just Vice President Dick Cheney, asked the CIA to look into it." Novak wrote that two senior administration sources claimed that it had been at Plame's suggestion that the CIA sent her husband to Niger in 2002 to investigate the Yellowcake Forgery, documents implying that Iraq had attempted to illegally purchase uranium from that country. This does not contradict Wilson's claim on July 6 that he was sent to Niger by the CIA after a request for more information on the Niger question was made to the CIA by Vice President Cheney. Cheney has denied any knowledge of Wilson's Niger visit.
Wilson charged that his wife's CIA association had been deliberately exposed by the White House in order to destroy her career, in retaliation for his public charge that the Bush administration had lied to the American people about U.S. intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In an article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, Wilson denounced the Bush administration, saying that "some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
The matter is currently under investigation by the Justice Department and the FBI. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the investigation in December 2003. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald currently heads the investigation. Because the Justice Department is a part of the Bush administration, there are concerns that rapid and effective action is unlikely.
Little is known of Plame's professional career. She has described herself as an energy analyst for the private company Brewster Jennings & Associates, which was subsequently acknowledged by the CIA to be a front.
Plame met Wilson at a Washington party in early 1997. She was able to reveal her CIA role to him while they were dating because he held a high-level security clearance. The couple are the parents of three-year-old twins.