Fair Game is a new feature movie about the Valerie Plame affair. Naomi Watts plays Valerie Plame. Sean Penn plays her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson. I am having trouble containing how much I appreciate this movie, so let me start with the facts:
In the buildup for the Iraq War, the Bush Administration was eager to claim that Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons. At the time, Valerie Plame was an undercover operative for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) working on counterproliferation. She was running operations around the world to find reliable sources of information about the funding and development of weapons of mass destruction. She has developed a most sensitive source to get information from an Iraqi scientist. Her bosses ask her if she can get her husband to help them check out a claim that Saddam was buying yellow cake uranium from Niger – one of the poorest countries in the world. Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, knew the area and had contacts in Niger. He agrees to check it out. The amount of uranium at issue would have filled a convoy of trucks. It would have been noticed by everyone around and left a long paper trail. Wilson goes to Niger, visits his contacts, talks to the witnesses, and inspects the records. Nothing indicates any sale to Iraq. He makes his report. Then he is stunned to hear President Bush claim in the 2003 State of the Union Address that, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Joe Wilson and NWC staff and internsJoe Wilson (pictured with staff and interns of the National Whistleblowers Center) checks out whether President Bush could have been referring to any other African country other than Niger. He learns that the White House staff was relying on the same report that Wilson himself had checked out. He learns that the White House took out the claim from a speech President Bush gave in Cincinnati, but it popped back into the State of the Union Address. After the US invades Iraq, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice claims that if anyone in the government had reason to doubt the President’s claim about Saddam’s uranium, then it would have to be some staffer in the bowels of the CIA. Wilson knew this was wrong, and he felt compelled to call on his government to redress it.


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WikiLeaks.org has released an 18 minute video that shows United States armed forces in Iraq attacking a group that included two journalists from Reuters. The journalists, and about ten other civilians, were fatally injured in the 2007 attack.

National Public Radio (NPR) this morning reports (although not in its on-line article) that the video came from a whistleblower. A number of circumstances point to whistleblowing as a source for this video.  The video was classified and encrypted. So, whoever released this video is likely to have had a security clearance. Also WikiLeaks.org has posted a decrypted version of the video. This indicates either that the source had access to the decryption methods or that the government’s encryption is vulnerable.

WikiLeaks.org is a volunteer organization that has vetted and released anonymous submissions since 2007. Its initial focus was to expose corruption by authoritarian regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, the Middle East and Africa. In 2008, a federal judge in California ordered that it be shut down after it exposed illegal activities by the Cayman Islands branch of a Swiss bank. Last December, WikiLeaks.org suspended availability of past leaks due to a funding shortage. The site is now widely distributed and mirrored to stymie censorship.

Today’s video release exemplifies the role whistleblowers can play in revealing how national security laws are used to cover up mistakes or misconduct by military and other government officials. The public debate and historical record benefit from this whistleblower leak. The release is also a test of how technology can facilitate whistleblowing by persons with security clearances.


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In the United Kingdom, a former investigator of the Royal Military Police (RMP), speaking anonymously, alleges that Senior British army commanders in Iraq refused to investigate Iraqi civilian abuse claims. According to BBC News on October 11th, the whistleblower claims that while he has seen documentary evidence of hundreds of incidences, involving death and serious injury to Iraqis, investigators could not examine these cases because the whole system of military justice is flawed. The military chain of command made independent investigations of the RMP almost impossible by not providing resources or denying access.


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This Wednesday, September 24th, American University in Washington, DC will be holding a symposium entitled “A Question of Conscience.” The event will focus on issues surrounding national security whistleblowers, and specifically the case of Katherine Gun, a former British Secret Service agent who blew the whistle on illegal US/UK espionage activities aimed at selling the

This Monday, May 12, the Democratic Policy Committee is scheduled to hold hearings  to  "examine  the impact  of  American  reconstruction  and  anti-corruption failures on the U.S. mission in Iraq." Several former government employees will be offering testimony.

This hearing is a continuation of the admirable work that this committee has done in shedding light on