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March 12, 2006

Case (Officer) Closed: Valerie Plame Was Not Covert, Not A NOC, Ever, Never Ever

The beginning of this article ennumerates all the various ways that Valerie Plame's paper-thin cover could be exposed by simple Internet and public-database searches.

And of course all hostile foreign intelligence services could do all that, and did.

Good reading, but let's cut to the chase:

When the Chicago Tribune searched for Plame on an Internet service that sells public information about private individuals to its subscribers, it got a report of more than 7,600 words. Included was the fact that in the early 1990s her address was "AMERICAN EMBASSY ATHENS ST, APO NEW YORK NY 09255."

I am not in intelligence and what I know of it is gleaned from books. I admit that. But what I have gleaned is this:


All intelligence services know that 1/3 to 1/2 of everyone who works in an embassy is actually a spy. So they watch them all. Anyone who works in an embassy is a suspsected spy.

In fact, CIA traitor Phillip Agee -- for whom the covert agent proectection act was SPECIFICALLY written -- revealed how you could determine all CIA "diplomants" from true diplomats in an embassy just by looking at their accreditation. I forget the details, and I wouldn't be comfortable repeating them if I did, but apparently the true diplomats jealously protect their acceditation, and won't allow the CIA plants to fake the same accreditation. So you can (or could, when the traitor's article came out) look down the embassy roster searching for who was a DSO or DFO (I forget what the acronym was) and immediately determine all the CIA operatives.

All intelligence services put spies in the embassies because they have diplomatic immunity. They can't be arrested. BUT, this also means they're automatically watched and surveilled and followed. So CIA agents in an embassy already have their covers blown from the moment they first report for duty.


Non-official cover -- "NOC" cover -- means no one has any particular reason to suspect you, and you can meet with spies you've recruited in a foreign country.

On the other hand, you do not have diplomatic immunity, so you can be hanged or jailed as a saboteur or spy if caught.

There is no back-and-forth between the two. Once you have official "cover," you can't be a NOC. You can't have non-official cover once the US government has posted you in an embassy with a big sign over your head reading "HERE IS AN AMERICAN SPY."

True cover is like your virginity. You can only lose it once. And if you've been posted in an embassy, you've lost it, big time, with a second-string cornerback named "Mitch" who didn't even last that long.

And also, to the Soviets, who were taking pictures the whole time.

That's my rant. But just wait, intelligence experts agree with me.


According to CIA veterans, U.S. intelligence officers working in American embassies under "diplomatic cover" are almost invariably known to friendly and opposition intelligence services alike.

"If you were in an embassy," said a former CIA officer who posed as a U.S. diplomat in several countries, "you could count 100 percent on the Soviets knowing."

Plame's true function likely would have been known to friendly intelligence agencies as well. The former senior diplomat recalled, for example, that she served as one of the "control officers" coordinating the visit of President George H.W. Bush to Greece and Turkey in July 1991.

... Plame made a $1,000 contribution to Vice President Al Gore, she listed her employer as Brewster-Jennings & Associates, a Boston company apparently set up by the CIA to provide "commercial cover" for some of its operatives.

Brewster-Jennings was not a terribly convincing cover. According to Dun & Bradstreet, the company, created in 1994, is a "legal services office" grossing $60,000 a year and headed by a chief executive named Victor Brewster. Commercial databases accessible by the Tribune contain no indication that such a person exists.

Skipping a bit. Some idiot posted his resume on-line, listing both his employment for Brewster & Jennings and the CIA, but that's just the boneheaded tradecraft of one idiot. That's the sort of mistake that any intelligence operative could make, so long as he was an employee of the CIA.

Moving on:

After Plame left her diplomatic post and joined Brewster-Jennings, she became what is known in CIA parlance as an "NOC," shorthand for an intelligence officer working under "non-official cover." But several CIA veterans questioned how someone with an embassy background could have successfully passed herself off as a private-sector consultant with no government connections.

Genuine NOCs, a CIA veteran said, "never use an official address. If she had (a diplomatic) address, her whole cover's completely phony. I used to run NOCs. I was in an embassy. I'd go out and meet them, clandestine meetings. I'd pay them cash to run assets or take trips. I'd give them a big bundle of cash. But they could never use an embassy address, ever."

Another CIA veteran with 20 years of service agreed that "the key is the (embassy) address. That is completely unacceptable for an NOC. She wasn't an NOC, period."

After Plame was transferred back to CIA headquarters in the mid-1990s, she continued to pass herself off as a private energy consultant. But the first CIA veteran noted: "You never let a true NOC go into an official facility. You don't drive into headquarters with your car, ever."

A senior U.S. intelligence official, who like the others quoted in this article spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that Plame "may not be alone in that category, so I don't want to suggest she was the only one. But it would be a fair assumption that a true-blue NOC is not someone who has a headquarters job at any point or an embassy job at any point."

Well, duh. NOC's are real undercover agents, who may be jailed or even killed (LAWFULLY!) by the country they operate in if discovered.

It's that serious. You really are breaking the law if you spy for another country, even if you're not a citizen of the country you're spying on. If you don't have diplomatic immunity, you can go to jail for life for espionage, even if you were only guilty of patriotism towards your home country.

It's the law on the books in every country. NOCs aren't often jailed for life or hanged, because usually arrangements are made for an exchange of spies (both countries what their patriotic and daring spies back, even if it means giving up the other guy's), but the possibility is there.

If you get caught, without diplomatic immunity, practicing espionage, you can be killed or jailed for life.

Now, as those are the risks. Given that...

Would any NOC drive to CIA headquarters every day? Or take an embassy job known to exist primarily to A) frustrate US citizens or B) provide the thinnest possible cover for a CIA operative?

And then venture forth to foreign countries to do espionage? With that previous record? Knowing that every foreign intelligence service knows he's a spy, and could be arrested (LAWFULLY!, not on some pretext bullshit fake charge) at any time?

No, a real NOC wouldn't.

Valerie Plame was not a NOC, and not just at the end of her career. She was a normal CIA case officer with the thinnest sort of diplomatic cover, surveilled by foreign intelligence services in every country she worked in, and then she later retired to a desk job at Langley, CIA headquarters. At no time in her entire career was she a legitimate covert operative.

End of fucking story.

NOC versus True Covert: I suppose as Valerie Plame had non-official cover at the barely-disguised CIA front Brewster & Jennings at the end of her career, she did have "NOC" cover. But no one would have sent her on actual espionage missions with that bullshit cover, and that glaringly obvious background.

Real NOCs -- the ones who are non-official from the moment they leave training, and even are separated from other CIA trainees so as to keep their identities secret -- never have official cover, and never have any obvious contact with the CIA. There's a difference between non-official-cover -- which just means any cover except diplomatic cover -- and NOCs. NOCs spend their active espionage careers without the safety of diplomatic cover, taking the most risks.

The press is confusing people by confusing "run of the mill desk agent with paper-thin non-official-cover who wouldn't try to enter Maryland on the strenght of their cover" and "bona fide covert agents who are true NOCs," partly out of intent but mostly, probably, out of ignorance.

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posted by Ace at 04:20 AM

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