Both CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric and "Early Show" co-host Harry Smith portrayed Valerie Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson, as innocent victims, even though Plame admitted to being "partisan" in a "60 Minutes" interview with Couric on Sunday.
On Friday’s "Early Show," Smith opened a segment previewing the upcoming interview by explaining that, "Valerie Plame spent nearly 20 years in the shadows of the CIA. Then suddenly, she became a public figure." He later played a clip of the interview in which Couric exclaimed how "18 years of meticulously crafted cover were gone in an instant." Strangely there was no mention of the "Vanity Fair" photo op that Plame and her husband posed for, which Couric asked about in the "60 Minutes" interview:
COURIC: An investigation was launched. But as it dragged on, the Wilsons hardly kept a low profile, appearing at glamorous public events, political fund-raisers for the Democratic Party, and in "Vanity Fair" magazine. You know, you're a covert C.I.A. agent for "x" number of years, and suddenly, you know, you're in this Greta Garbo pose in your husband's jaguar.
PLAME: It was more trouble than it was worth. And it was... I was not interviewed for the article. I was not identifiable. The damage had already been done.
On Monday’s "Early Show" Smith once again presented a segment on the interview and played a portion where "...Plame talks about the sensitive nature of her work, which was compromised when her name was illegally leaked." He then set up the next clip by saying, "Valerie Plame, of course, is married to former ambassador Joe Wilson, and the two of them are still deeply, deeply hurt by this entire experience...Take a look at this." In the clip that followed Joe Wilson proceeded to condemn the "mafia-like" tactics of the Bush Administration.
While Couric deserved credit for asking a few challenging questions of Plame, the rest of the "60 Minutes" interview was not so probing. The sympathetic anchor began the interview as she declared that "As a CIA spy, Valerie Plame Wilson wasn't allowed to defend herself, maintaining her silence for four long years until tonight." Really? Than I guess Joe Wilson’s role as an advisor to the Kerry Campaign, that "Vanity Fair" article, and Plame’s testimony before Congress, which Couric reported on, are Katie’s idea of being "silent."
Couric later summed up Plame’s conspiracy theory about the controversy by saying that, "She believes her identity was leaked in a newspaper because her husband, who had gone on a fact-finding mission for the CIA before the Iraq war, publicly accused the president and others of lying to justify the invasion." Well, we already know that Katie agrees with that assessment, after her September 25 declaration that "People in this country were misled in terms of the rationale for war." Sounds eerily similar, does it not?
Couric then painted numerous Administration officials as being responsible for the leak of Plame’s name, despite only Richard Armitage being cited as a source for the Novak column that sparked the controversy:
Eventually, the leak of her name was traced all the way back to the Vice President's office...The special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, found evidence there were four leakers: Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; the Vice President's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby; President Bush's closest confidante, Karl Rove; and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer...Fitzgerald said that, by lying, Libby had prevented him from getting to the bottom of the leak, and he said quote: "There is a cloud over the Vice President and there is a cloud over the White House."
If only "clouds" were actually admissible in court.
Finally, at the conclusion of the interview, Couric took the liberty of presuming the guilt of President Bush in the controversy: "When all is said and done, the top aides to both the president and the vice president leaked your name to reporters. Do you think President Bush was in on this?" Plame responded:
I don't know about that. But I, like most other Americans, saw President Bush say on TV that he would fire anyone from his administration found to be involved in the leak of my name. It turns out the president is not a man of his word.
You can read the full "60 Minutes" transcript here.
Here is the full transcript of this morning’s 7:18am "Early Show" segment:
HARRY SMITH: Good morning, again. I'm Harry Smith. You're watching the "Early Show"on CBS. Valerie Plame, the CIA agent at the center of a White House scandal, spoke out for the first time in an interview with Katie Couric on last night's "60 Minutes." This morning we want to bring you more of that interview, as Plame talks about the sensitive nature of her work, which was compromised when her name was illegally leaked. She says a classified ad clipped out by her mother led her to the CIA right out of college.
VALERIE PLAME: The ad said things like "serve your country" and "Have you traveled abroad?," and "Do you speak any foreign languages?"
KATIE COURIC: At The Farm, the CIA's training camp in rural Virginia, she learned how to recruit foreign agents, or assets, the actual spies.
PLAME: Yes, I am a spy, but within the agency, we would never call ourselves spies. We are the spymasters, if you will, the operations officers. We're the ones who are directing.
COURIC: What are some of the risks for the agents you recruit?
PLAME: Oh. In the most extreme case, it's our life, of course. They are putting their lives in our hands. And that -- that is the real damage of what has happened in this whole leak affair. Because of agents in my career that have been associated with me at some point or another, it places them into great jeopardy, and that is the real damage done to national security. And when you -- I think about going out from here, maybe there's someone out there who has really critical information that would help the United States of America, and they're saying to themselves, you know what, I'd like to approach that person that I know is, you know, a little special, a little different, but you know, they couldn't even protect one of their own officers. So maybe I'll go off and sell my information to the Russians instead. That's the tragedy.
COURIC: You believe your name being public will have a chilling effect on the ability to recruit other agents.
PLAME: Indeed. That is the true damage done by this affair.
SMITH: Valerie Plame, of course, is married to former ambassador Joe Wilson, and the two of them are still deeply, deeply hurt by this entire experience. This is another clip from the interview I want to show you. Take a look at this.
JOE WILSON: It was a mafia-like tactic. And the idea of going after your family, even in Washington, was an outrage. Nobody went after Karl Rove's family. Nobody went after "Scooter" Libby's family. They went after my family.
COURIC: In all fairness, Karl Rove's wife doesn't work for the CIA.
WILSON: How do you know?
COURIC: "Scooter" Libby's wife doesn't work for the CIA.
WILSON: How do you know? How do you know?
COURIC: I don't know for sure, but I think it's a safe assumption.
WILSON: Yeah, you don't know. And we don't know what they did. Because nobody went after heir families, and that's the way it should be. That's the way it should be.
COURIC: You are still seething.
WILSON: Oh, I think absolutely, absolutely. I'm seething because it was a --first and foremost, it was a great betrayal of the national security of the country.
SMITH: Of course, there is more available from the interview on our website. If you go to the "60 Minutes" website, you can see excerpts from the interview that were not included on the show last night. Really, really quite a story.