Right Wing Blogs Pile On “Who’s Who in America”

Critics strain to make the case that Valerie Plame was outed long before Robert Novak wrote his column naming her.

By now you likely know that our old friend Robert Novak, in a snoozer of a column, has disclosed who his sources were in the Valerie Plame leak case.

Many bloggers this morning see his column as proof that Plame had been outed long before Novak disclosed her name and her role in recommending her husband for a fact-finding trip to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was trying to secure yellowcake for its nuclear program. In a bit of intellectual gymnastics, these claims are based on bringing up the “Who’s Who in America” directory, where Plame is listed as being married to ambassador Joseph Wilson. While the listing doesn’t say “CIA Operative” next to her name, the mere fact that she was proven to exist prior to Novak’s outing her is proof, to some critics, that she had already been “outed.”

Got that bit of considered wisdom? Good. Captian’s Quarters brings up the canard today, writing, “The people responsible for outing Valerie Plame are Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame herself, and her cohorts at the CIA who tried running a little disinformation campaign against George Bush in order to control foreign policy themselves.”

Right Winged also holds that Plame couldn’t have been outed by Novak, since her name “was published in a book in the late 90s!!!” And what did this insidious book excerpt say? Under Joe Wilson’s bio, the treason reads thus: “m. Valerie Elise Plame, Apr. 3, 1998.”

Why does “Who’s Who in America” hate America?

Right Winged ain’t done, and next up for his ire is the MSM, specifically the liberals at Yahoo! News. “As you know, I love bashing Yahoo! for their blatant display of liberal media bias…I was treated to one headline that reads: “Novak: Rove was a source in outing Plame.”” RW calls this “borderline flat out lying” because, as we learned above, the mere fact of Plame’s existence had somehow already outed her as a CIA employee. But, considering that Rove was a secondary source on the story, we can’t exactly get our heads around what the problem is here. The mind reels.

But let’s back track a bit and look at what Novak actually wrote this morning. “Joe Wilson’s wife’s role in instituting her husband’s mission was revealed to me in the middle of a long interview with an official…Following my interview with the primary source, I sought out the second administration official [Rove] and the CIA spokesman for confirmation. I learned Valerie Plame’s name from Joe Wilson’s entry in “Who’s Who in America.”

So, Novak was tipped that Joe Wilson’s wife, who worked for the CIA, (which he didn’t know before the tip) had a hand in sending him to Niger. He then looked up Wilson’s bio, and finds her name. So it seems that she wasn’t “outed” by his bio, but by the unnamed source who tipped Novak that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA. It’s a complicated trail, but it leads to an important point the blogs seem to be missing. What’s more, after the initial tip, Novak then went to Rove and the CIA spokesman for confirmation, and then, since he “considered [Wilson’s] wife’s role in initiating Wilson’s mission, later confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, to be a previously undisclosed part of an important news story,” he “reported it on that basis.” And yet, Uncorrelated writes that “Wilson outed his wife by two actions—countenancing the nepotism of accepting a recommendation from his wife, and enhancing the public record with the Who’s Who entry.” The Real Ugly American tries to muddy the issue by saying that “I didn’t know secret agents published their names in Who’s Who in America. I guess any terrorist or foreign government trying to identify CIA spies should pick up a copy.”

Sure, except it doesn’t say “secret agent” next to the agent’s name. You see — that’s the where the whole “secret” part of it comes in.

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.