Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ex-CIA operative Plame talks nuclear, cyber threats

- By Courtney Linder

“It’s two and a half minutes to midnight,” said Valerie Plame, a former covert operative for the Central Intelligen­ce Agency. “The clock says we’re closer to human extinction than ever since 1953.”

Ms. Plame, who worked to prevent the proliferat­ion of nuclear weapons, referred to the Science and Security Board’s “Doomsday Clock” in her keynote speech at Carnegie Mellon University on

Friday, prefacing a panel on inclusivit­y in STEM — or science, technology, engineerin­g and math — for students and faculty.

In her hour-long discussion of nuclear threats and cybersecur­ity, Ms. Plame kept the conversati­on solutions-oriented, rather than dwelling on the high-profile “Plamegate” scandal that ended her espionage career.

In 2003, Washington Post columnist Robert Novak outed Ms. Plame as a covert officer. Purportedl­y, the George W. Bush administra­tion had leaked the informatio­n after Ms. Plame’s husband wrote an op-ed for The New York Times questionin­g whether the government manipulate­d the public about Iraq having nuclear armaments.

“After that, a member of Congress called me a glorified secretary,” she said Friday, pausing. “Because I’m a girl,” she said with an intentiona­lly plastic smile.

Now, Ms. Plame sits on various boards, including cybersecur­ity company Global Data Security and the Penn State School of Internatio­nal Affairs. She writes memoir and fiction novels, and uses speaking engagement­s as a platform to educate the public.

Ms. Plame didn’t hesitate to criticize those who don’t fully grasp the power of nuclear armaments.

“It’s very clear [President Donald Trump] doesn’t understand much about the nuclear threat,” she said, citing his first television interview as president. He told ABC’s David Muir that having access to the nuclear codes was “very, very, very scary.”

“The fundamenta­l problem is not that Trump has access to the nuclear launch codes, but that they exist at all,” she said.

Ms. Plame offered that Mr. Trump could “be the very person to move us toward nuclear disarmamen­t,” prescribin­g a diet that includes a “no first use” policy, which pledges a country won’t use nuclear arms unless first attacked by an adversary that is using them.

But the only true answer is abolition of nuclear weapons, she said.

In the same vein, she called for deterrence of cyberattac­ks and influence operations, noting the Democratic National Committee email leak last year. The U.S. needs to work harder to protect its citizens from cyberattac­ks, she said, deterring use of domestic cyberwarfa­re, not just abroad.

“To my knowledge, no one has died from a cyberattac­k ... but there is a gray area between peace and war,” she said.

Despite being publicly outed from her own position, she asked that the best and brightest at CMU consider working in public service.

“I believe in much more diplomacy, not less,” Ms. Plame said. “We are living in unpreceden­ted times.”

 ??  ?? Former CIA officer Valerie Plame.
Former CIA officer Valerie Plame.

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