Valerie Plame Wilson addresses UW-P

he University of Wisconsin-Platteville presented former Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame Wilson as this year’s distinguished lecturer.

Plame Wilson gave an impassioned speech that focused on her betrayal from the White House, the importance of public service and the empowerment of women in the workplace.

Plame Wilson was employed by the CIA as an undercover agent from 1985 to 2005.  Her primary duties were gathering intelligence about weapons of mass destruction.

After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers on Sept. 11, 2001, Plame Wilson’s husband Joe Wilson, a former foreign ambassador, went to Niger to determine if the African county was selling yellowcake uranium to Iraq.  Finding no evidence of uranium sales in Niger, Wilson returned to the United States.

On March 19, 2003, both Plame Wilson and her husband watched in shock as President Bush informed the nation that the U.S. was invading Iraq to seek weapons of mass destruction.

“Everything that was being reported on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction went against all the intelligence that Joe and I had collected,” Plame Wilson said.  “Still, I gave the benefit of the doubt to the president.  Maybe there was information I was not privy to.”

Wilson, outraged that an attack on Iraq was made on what he felt was a lie, published an article in the “New York Times” condemning the Bush Administration.  According to nytimes.com, Wilson concluded his article with this, “The act of war is the last option of a democracy, taken when there is a grave threat to our national security.  More than 200 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq already.  We have a duty to ensure that their sacrifice came for the right reasons.”

For this reason, Plame Wilson said the Bush Administration publicized her status as an undercover agent.  On July 14, 2003, Robert Novak, a columnist at “The Washington Post,” published Plame Wilson’s identity as a CIA operative.  Novak received the information on Plame Wilson from the U.S. States Department’s Richard Armitage.

Following the devastation of her career, Plame Wilson and her husband tried to sue Vice President Cheney and other White House officials, but the suit was thrown out of both district court and the court of appeals.

It was then that she decided to write a book about her experiences and subsequent betrayal by the government, Plame Wilson said in an “Exponent” interview.

“It is important to hold one’s government accountable for its words and actions,” Plame Wilson said.

After writing the book “Fair Game” and advising on a movie of the same name, Plame Wilson now speaks at public venues and focuses on her passion of ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

Global Zero, Plame Wilson’s movement for the removal of all nuclear weapons, shows videos of people from all over the globe and celebrities such as Michael Douglas, pleading to their governments to destroy their nuclear weapons.

Global Zero’s website states, “The Global Zero Action Plan calls for the United States and Russia – who hold more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons – to negotiate deep cuts in their arsenals, followed by international negotiations to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2030.”

Plame Wilson said she talks to college students to encourage awareness about not only nuclear weapons, but about the duties young Americans need to take to be responsible citizens as well.

“One of the reasons I speak at universities is to urge all students I speak with to consider a career in public service,” Plame Wilson said.  “It doesn’t have to be the CIA or Foreign Service, as there are many avenues to public service.  Travel abroad and learning a language – especially a ‘hard’ one is helpful.”

Plame Wilson also emphasizes the importance of empowering women in the workplace in her lectures, especially those jobs that are traditionally seen as men’s.

“When I was working at the CIA, I kept looking for a woman, someone who had been where I was and could be my mentor,” Plame Wilson said.  “There was no one.”

Plame Wilson urges young women to fight for equal rights and always look behind them to hold the door for other young women that need mentoring.

Junior biology major Olivia Bukowski said she attended the lecture out of curiosity and was impressed by Plame Wilson’s messages.

“I really enjoyed the women’s empowerment part of the lecture,” Bukowski said.  “It is so important that we as women help each other out.”

Plame Wilson was the twelfth speaker in the distinguished lecturer series.  Valerie Wetzel, assistant director of the Pioneer Involvement Center said the distinguished lecture program was dropped in the 1980s before resuming in 2002.

The Improvement and Learning Committee finds speakers for students to vote on and ranks the top three choices.  Wetzel then negotiates to with the speakers to set up the lecture.

“Most of the time, I can negotiate and book the first or second choice,” Wetzel said.  “This year it was great to have Plame Wilson.  What could be more relevant to college students than global issues?”

The choices for next year include Michelle Alexander, Vernice “Fly Girl” Armour, Colonel Eileen Collins, Ronald Cotton, Morris Dees, John Douglas, Susan Eisenhower, Helen Fisher, Lani Guinier, Mavis Leno, Lisa Ling, Sonia Nazario, Joshua Rushing and Marilyn Tam.  Students can pick their top three choices by logging onto PioneerLink.