Macleans: Valerie Plame on juggling romance, babies, identities

October 26th, 2011

by Luiza Ch. Savage
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

“I have long been disappointed in the portrayals in the popular culture of female CIA operatives. They are always such cartoon characters, aren’t they? They are hyper-sexualized, hyper-physical, always good with guns . . . ” So says former spy Valerie Plame Wilson. She is sitting in a quiet corner of a hotel resort in Santa Fe, an artistic enclave in the New Mexico desert, far removed from the political circus of Washington that ended her career as a covert CIA operative.

Her life’s work in nuclear non-proliferation—chasing and protecting nuclear weaponry, the details and duration of which remain classified—was cut short in 2003 when Bush administration officials leaked her identity to the press after her husband, former diplomat Joe Wilson, accused the White House of lying about a key piece of intelligence it used to make the case for invading Iraq.

The Wilsons moved to New Mexico and penned memoirs that were turned into a movie, Fair Game, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. If her career wasn’t already the stuff of fiction, it now will be. Plame is at work on a novel about a female spy due out next year from Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin. She is working with co-author Sarah Lovett, a mystery writer. “I thought there was room for a character who is a little more realistic,” says Plame.

The biggest misperception about female spies? “The biggest one is you sleep with your assets,” laughs Plame, who says that even on a training course with State Department employees (one of her covers was as a diplomat), she faced questions about bedding the enemy. “The ‘honey trap’ has been used by other intelligence services, but has never been used to my knowledge by U.S. intelligence,” she says.

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