One aspect of the whole Valerie Plame kerfuffle that is being vastly overplayed and mischaracterized — and that’s the role that Who’s Who played in the whole thing.
Who’s Who is, to be blunt, an ego stroking for the rich and famous and powerful, as well as those who want to be. Its main use is as a source of information for the press, like Robert Novak, who might want to contact some of these folks who like to be thought of as “movers and shakers.”
In that context, it is entirely logical that Joseph Wilson would submit his personal and contact information to Who’s Who. But why did he mention his wife?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that having Valerie Plame’s name listed in Who’s Who was no violation of CIA security. In fact, it was probably recommended.
Spies don’t live in a vacuum. They don’t sit quietly in safe houses until they are summoned to duty, when they carry out their missions and then return to base. They live in homes. They have families. They have friends. They look, walk, talk, eat, sleep, and do everything just like everyone else.
So it’s impossible to make spies invisible. Normal people don’t just vanish. So what do you do?
You make them normal. You make them indistinguishable from non-spies. You make them look as average, as mundane, as boring as possible. You do absolutely nothing to call attention to them.
Now, as we are so often reminded, Joseph Wilson was a former ambassador. As such, he was qualified to be listed in Who’s Who. Part of the information Who’s Who records is spouses, and sometimes children. If someone knew that Wilson was married, but Who’s Who failed to list his wife, that would be an aberration, a red flag, that there was something about Mrs. Wilson that was being concealed.
Of course, if Who’s Who listed her occupation as “Super-Secret CIA Operative X-14,” that’d be a different story.
Novak’s use of Who’s Who was no great scoop. It was one of the most fundamental, simplest steps in journalism, especially for someone of Novak’s age and experience, who probably isn’t comfortable with Google and other search engines, but would prefer to have actual ink on paper. So if he found that he needed to find out the name of a former ambassador’s wife, Who’s Who would be the first thing that came to mind.
This is not to give the slightest credence to the Wilsons’ suit, or their laughable claims. But the whole “Joe Wilson outed his wife by listing her in Who’s Who” — a claim I’ve seen in some comments here, as well as on other sites — is a canard, and should be swept aside.
Actually, Kevin himself pointed out much of this when he reprinted Wilson’s entry in Who’s Who, but that got lost in all the heat. It’s definitely worth bringing up again.