Valerie Plame Wilson speaking at Smith

  • In this June. 21, 2011, file photo, former U.S. CIA Operations Officer, Valerie Plame Wilson arrives for the UK film premiere of Countdown to Zero in London. Wilson launched an online fundraiser on Aug. 18, 2017, looking to raise enough money to buy Twitter so President Donald Trump can’t use it. AP File Photo

For The Recorder
Thursday, November 30, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — A former undercover CIA operative who was famously outed in 2003 is scheduled to speak at Smith College next month as part of a multidisciplinary discussion about war.

Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity was revealed in a syndicated column during the George W. Bush presidency making her the country’s best-known spy in 2003. More recently, she gained notoriety for disseminating an anti-Semitic article on social media, an action for which she apologized.

Plame Wilson’s talk is part of a speaker series at Smith’s Kahn Liberal Arts Institute, under the War Project, a seminar organized by Mlada Bukovansky, a professor of government, and Cornelia Pearsall, a professor of English language and literature. She is scheduled to speak on Dec. 11.

The talk, titled “Social Media and U.S. Foreign Policy,” takes place at Weinstein Auditorium in Wright Hall at 5 p.m. A question-and-answer period will conclude the 90-minute event.

Kahn Chronicle, a publication of the institute, notes Plame Wilson offers expertise “on topics including cyber security, national security and nuclear proliferation” and that visits by lecturers “are essential components of Kahn Institute long-term projects.”

Plame Wilson gained publicity when she was identified as a CIA operative in a column written by Robert Novak. Her outing led to a criminal investigation into the Bush White House and the appointment of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, an Amherst College graduate, who successfully convicted Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Libby’s sentence was later commuted by Bush.

In the 14 years since her outing, Plame Wilson has written extensively, including spy novels. She came under a wave of criticism in September for using Twitter to retweet an article titled “America’s Jews are Driving America’s Wars.” Plame Wilson apologized on social media for sharing the article shortly after the incident.

In August, Plame Wilson launched a fundraising campaign to buy Twitter and remove President Trump from the platform.

Since Plame Wilson’s visit was announced, an article published in Tablet, which focuses on Jewish news and politics, panned the invitation.

“Next at the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute? Harvey Weinstein on gender equality, Richard Spencer on American race relations, and Donald Trump on Social Media and U.S. Foreign Policy,” writes James Kirchick, the Tablet article author.

Smith College spokeswoman Stacey Schmeidel said in an email that the college is committed to academic freedom and freedom of expression.

“Smith College faculty members involved in a seminar on the study of war extended a speaking invitation to Valerie Plame,” Schmeidel said. “The invitation does not imply an endorsement of Ms. Plame’s views by those extending the invitation, nor by the college.”

Efforts to reach Bukovansky and Kahn Institute Director Alexandra Keller were unsuccessful, while University of Massachusetts political science professor Paul Musgrave, who is supposed to be on the panel with Plame Wilson, referred questions about the event to the Smith College news office.

Schmeidel added that the college doesn’t tolerate discrimination.

“Smith College strongly condemns bias in all forms,” she said.

Established in 1998, the Kahn Institute aims to “to give faculty, students and outside experts a place to collaborate on research projects of broad scope,” its website says. The institute’s founders also envisioned a series of public events related to these projects to enhance the intellectual life of the college, the site says.