Public Affairs Symposum :: Valerie Plame Wilson
For 45 years Dickinson has held a series of events and speakers that focuses on one subject of possible student concern, which might not be addressed in a regular classroom. Called the Public Affairs Symposium (PAS) this event in recent years has brought to campus such speakers as former Senator Bob Dole and CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien. Following this trend of big names is this year's Poitras-Gleim lecturer, Valerie Plame Wilson, who will speak on February 17th.
A former CIA agent, Plame was at the center of controversy when in July 2003, syndicated columnist Bob Novak reveled her identity despite the fact that at the time she was a covert agent and that information was classified. As a result of the article Ms. Plame Wilson was forced to retire from the CIA.
Novak's column in the Washington Post was a direct response to an op-ed entitled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," written by Plame's husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, and published in the New York Times the previous week. In his op-ed, Ambassador Wilson stated that the Bush administration exaggerated unreliable claims that Iraq intended to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger to support the administration's arguments that Iraq was proliferating weapons of mass destruction, all in an attempt to justify its preemptive war in Iraq.
The Novak article, believed by many to be a hatchet piece on Wilson's credibility, brought up Plame in an implication that Wilson only received the assignment because of his wife's position in the CIA. The reveling of her name exposed her and potentially jeopardized the life and work of not only Ms. Plame but of other covert agents as well.
Because the leaking of classified information is a federal crime, an investigation led by Special Council Patrick Fitzgerald exposed what some dub an act of treason: that the "outing" was coordinated with the involvement of President Bush's Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove; Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and the Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage. Libby was indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to federal investigators and in March 2007 was found guilty on four of the five counts against him. Scooter Libby received a commuted sentence following the trial and a full pardon is expected before President Bush leaves office.
The Plame affair, raging for over four years now, has received much attention. However, the public's reception to the leak has been far from an outcry. Unlike Watergate where the facts were clear and easy to understand, the Valerie Plame incident is extremely difficult to follow. After all, when President Clinton lied about getting a blowjob in the oval office he was impeached. But because the facts in this case involve a complicated story of who said what to whom and when and that the trail of interdepartmental memos is nearly indecipherable, the American public has all but given up on the story. That is, perhaps, until Scooter Libby's pardon.
Following the trial Ms. Plame Wilson has released a memoir entitled Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House. In it she chronicles the events from her side of the story and discusses life as a CIA agent and the effects of being thrust into the public spotlight
The scandal, her book, and related topics will be addressed as Valerie Plame speaks on the subject "Is Privacy Dead?" Sunday, February 17 at ATS 7:00 p.m.. Free tickets are available to students and to the general public, Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the MOB ticket window located in the lower level of the HUB. A question and answer session, book signing and dessert reception will follow the speech.
Likewise, a related lecture on the same topic will be given by George Washington Law School professor and author Jeffrey Rosen the following day, Monday, February 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Weiss Center. Rosen is one of the leading speakers and writers on the issue of privacy and security in post-9/11 America. He is a strong advocate of using well-designed laws and technologies to strike an effective and reasonable balance between liberty, privacy and security. His speech on the Destruction of Privacy in America should be thought provoking and insightful.