Outed Spy Valerie Plame Loses Appeal in First Amendment Case


Outed ex-spy Valerie Plame Wilson, whose memoir was heavily censored by the C.I.A., lost a second attempt to get the whole story out today. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the C.I.A.’s right to edit out of Wilson’s 2007 memoir, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, information relating to her days as a covert agent.

Wilson and Simon and Schuster had sued the C.I.A. on First Amendment grounds, arguing that information about her pre-2002 service in the memoir was already in the public domain, and prohibiting Wilson from disclosing it violated her freedom of speech.

Wilson is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was famously sent to Niger by Dick Cheney to investigate the nuclear situation in the run-up to the Iraq War. She resigned from the C.I.A. in January 2006, three years after columnist Robert Novak outed her as a spy.

Based on this — and because at the time of her resignation, the C.I.A. sent Wilson a declassified letter that included her dates of service — Wilson argued that the information was already in the public domain.

When she set out to write her memoir the following year, she was contractually obligated to submit a draft of the book to the C.I.A.’s Publications Review Board. The review board sent back a heavily-edited draft with a host of deletions.

Wilson was furious, and she and publisher Simon & Schuster sued the C.I.A. and officials Leon Panetta and Dennis Blair. Fair Game was published with the censor’s marks visible as blacked-out words, lines, paragraphs, or pages.

Three judges unanimously sided against Wilson today. Judge Reena Raggi wrote in her opinion (pdf) that, while the CIA “may have been negligent in communicating personnel information to Ms. Wilson without proper classification, the information only became public when Ms. Wilson — knowing that the CIA was insisting on maintaining the secrecy of her service dates — nevertheless authorized a member of Congress to publish the CIA communication in the Congressional record.”