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Ex-CIA agent highlights abuse of power

BY NINA EARNEST | NOVEMBER 11, 2010 7:20 AM

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She's jumped out of airplanes, fired automatic weapons, and waded through swamps.

And now, Valerie Plame Wilson wants Americans to speak truth to power.

Plame Wilson, the Central Intelligence Agency operative whose covert identity was reportedly revealed as an act of retaliation against her husband's criticism of the Bush administration, stressed the importance of checking power in an increasingly partisan environment.

The leak of Plame Wilson's identity occurred under a Republican administration, she said, but could have happened under any other.

"It really is about power and the abuse of power and when to check power when appropriate," she told The Daily Iowan.

Camera flashes, echoing applause, and a long standing ovation greeted Plame Wilson as she took the podium in the IMU Main Lounge on Wednesday evening.

"This is a story that begins in 2003, and I think some of you in the audience may have been in the fifth grade," she told the crowd of roughly 1,000 people.

The 41-minute lecture covered a myriad of topics — nuclear nonproliferation, the politicization of the U.S., and her own experiences.

Plame Wilson was scheduled to speak at the University of Iowa in 2007 but couldn't because of legal issues. Her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, visited instead.

Senior Zakir Durumeric, the head of the UI Lecture Committee, said the group decided to ask Plame Wilson to return considering the timing of the release of the movie Fair Game.

"She kept true in her promise to come," Durumeric said.

Katie Brown, 25, drove from Des Moines to hear her speak after following the case since she was a senior in high school.

"There was nothing that struck me more than the feeling of powerlessness when I saw what the government could do to one of its own citizens in public service," Brown said.

But Plame Wilson is still a fan of some secrets.

"I'm a big proponent of keeping real secrets secret," she told the DI.

A flip through Plame Wilson's memoir, Fair Game, reveals lines of blacked-out text, information considered classified.

But the leak of her identity, she said, was "truly treasonous." She feared the ripple effect on potential intelligence sources.

"They hear about my story and say 'Why would I jeopardize myself and my family when they couldn't even protect one of their own?' There really is a chilling effect," she said.

Freshman Zhenchao Qian heard about the Plame Wilson case when he went to the Iowa première of Fair Game on Nov. 5 at the Bijou.

The 18-year-old Chinese student is spending his first year in the United States, and he saw her story as part of understanding how power is used correctly — or not.

"Power is given by people but used by a minority of people," he said.

Qian didn't know about the Plame Wilson case before he came to the United States — he wasn't allowed.


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