Valerie Plame Wilson: No Ordinary Spy

In Her First Interview, Former CIA Officer Speaks To <b>Katie Couric</b>

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This segment was originally broadcast on Oct. 21, 2007. It was updated on Aug. 14, 2008.

When former CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity was published in a newspaper column five years ago, an investigation traced the leak all the way to the White House and it became apparent this was no ordinary spy story.

Her cover was blown after her husband - former ambassador Joe Wilson - criticized the Bush administration about the Iraq war. Was it retaliation? Administration supporters said no, dismissing her as a low level analyst. One congressman even called her "a glorified secretary."

Valerie Plame Wilson kept her silence about all this for years, until last October when she granted her first interview to 60 Minutes and Katie Couric.

"Finally, I get to set the record straight. Everyone in the world has spoken about this. And can speak about me. Can write about me, except for me. So finally I have a voice," Plame Wilson says.

60 Minutes met the most famous spy in America in Santa Fe, N.M., where she moved with her family two years ago. And she wanted to clear up some misconceptions.

"When I was outed on July 14th, 2003, I was, until that moment, covert," Plame Wilson says.

Asked what that means, Plame Wilson tells Couric, "That means no one outside of a very small circle knew where I really worked."

She believes her identity was leaked in a newspaper because her husband publicly accused the president and others of lying to justify the invasion.

"We understood that he would be criticized deeply. I never once considered that in fact this administration would betray my identity as payback for his criticism," Plame Wilson says.

She says seeing her name in print was "horrifying, absolutely horrifying."

Horrifying, because Plame Wilson was no glorified secretary. In fact, as it's spelled out in her book, "Fair Game," published by Simon & Schuster, which like CBS News and is owned by CBS, she spent 20 years at the CIA, rising to top-level positions. Her assignments took her all over the world, where she gathered information, recruited spies, and worked for many years deep undercover. In 1998, she was working at headquarters, spying for the newest CIA division, counter-proliferation.

"Our mission was to make sure that the bad guys, basically, did not get nuclear weapons," Plame Wilson explains.

By the time her name was leaked in 2003, she was chief of operations for the CIA's joint task force Iraq, in charge of dozens of officers and analysts. It was before the Iraq war, and she was trying to find evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

At the time, Plame Wilson says this didn't sound so far-fetched. "It's not as though Saddam Hussein had not pursued this and had not used WMD on his own people," she says.

"You and your team were meeting with Iraqi scientists before the invasion. What kind of intelligence were you getting from those people?" Couric asks.

"Thin. Very thin, very patchy," Plame Wilson says.

"Could it be you just weren't getting enough intelligence at the time?" Couric asks.

"Exactly. That was the horror. You didn't know if maybe if you just found the right scientist. If you just got to the right person, he would be able to give you the plans or give you, you know, really critical stuff that would help put all these pieces together," Plame Wilson says.

One of those pieces was of particular interest to the vice president's office: an intelligence report saying Iraq was buying 500 tons of uranium ore - which can be used to build nuclear weapons - from the African nation of Niger. It was a report that later turned out to be based on forged documents.