Valerie Plame, Nude!

Well, without sunglasses and a scarf, anyway.

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Valerie Plame’s career in the Central Intelligence Agency was destroyed by whoever leaked her name to Robert Novak, and that is a terrible wrong. If we ever find out who the leaker is, the president must fire him. (Or them.) That said, I’m starting to weary of the story line that Plame avoids the media spotlight. “She has guarded her privacy” and “shunned publicity,” Scott Shane wrote in the July 5 New York Times. That was true once, but it isn’t true now. Shane pointed out a glaring exception late in 2003, when Plame “posed with her husband for a Vanity Fair photographer, wearing sunglasses and with a scarf over her blond hair.” On Jan. 5, 2004, her husband, Joe Wilson, was quoted telling Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post that there was no remaining national-security reason to continue hiding Plame’s face, since her cover was “completely blown.” Then why the scarf and sunglasses? “She had to be clothed as generic blonde in order to deal with the genuine concern that some wacko on the street might easily identify her,” Wilson explained. “It was just in the interest of personal security.” Wilson repeated the need for this precaution in his memoir, The Politics of Truth:

She had already been described as the beautiful blond that she is, and her cover had long since been blown, so the only concern remaining was whether strangers would be able to use a photo to recognize her in public. With proper precautions taken, I saw no reason to deprive ourselves of the pleasure of being photographed together as the happily married couple that we are.

Fair enough. But on Page 70 of the July 2005 Vanity Fair—the one with Nicole Kidman on the cover and Mark Felt’s Deep Throat confession inside—there’s a photograph of the happy couple at Vanity Fair’s party celebrating the Tribeca Film Festival. No scarf and no sunglasses. Plame, seated, is smiling and leaning into the camera. If you’re a wacko on the street, please avert your eyes.

[Update, 11:55 a.m.: Multiple readers have alerted me that the purportedly camera-shy Plame can also be seen with Wilson here, attending some sort of event–a Wilson book-signing?–at Nathan’s restaurant in Georgetown.]