Santa Barbarans came out in droves to the 37th annual Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County luncheon, which featured an address by former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson. The sold-out event marked one of Plame’s first West Coast talks promoting her book Fair Game and talking about her experience being outed as a spy. The event was held at the Fess Parker Double Trees as a fundraiser to help elect democrats on the local, state, and national levels.
Plame talked about her career in the CIA, beginning with her induction through what she described as a “paramilitary boot camp” called “The Farm.” Here, Plame said, she was taught how to keep balanced under pressure while was she put under chronic sleep deprivation and mock undercover tasks. “You learn who you can trust and who folds under pressure,” Plame said. She noted that her main goal was to learn how to jump out airplanes and earn a little pin which trainees called their jump wings.
Plame is the wife of former diplomat and UCSB alum Joe Wilson. Due to Wilson’s connections with African leadership, the CIA asked him to investigate whether Saddam Hussein had attempted to obtain yellowcake uranium from Niger. All of his research suggested that such a transaction could not have taken place. “If, however, the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses,” Wilson stated in his New York Times op-ed “What I didn’t find in Africa.”
When conservative pundit Robert Novak published Valerie’s name in a 2003 column, as the result of leaks by executive government officials, the lives and of Plame and her team were put in mortal danger, she said. “I knew at that point that my career was over. I immediately started thinking about our assets and I feared for my family’s lives,” she said, noting that her cover was blown directly as a result of her husband’s refusal to support claims that Niger was selling material for WMDs to Iraq.
The luncheon also included brief speeches from Santa Barbara City Council members and incumbents in tomorrow’s elections - Das Williams, Brian Barnwell, and Helene Schneider. They commented on their stances on important local issues like the environment, programs the benefit out youth, and the sustainability of the city’s balanced budget. Also in attendance were public officials such as a representative from Congresswoman Lois Capps’ office, State Assemblyman Pedro Nava, and 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf.
If you are interested in learning more about Plame’s search for truth and justice, visit her website at www.wilsonsupport.org.