Valerie Plame had no reason to welcome a reporter into her home last week. Reporters tell stories and trade secrets, and her life, once a state secret, had become one of the most widely told stories in years. As if anyone could resist it: beautiful blond mother of two whose identity as a CIA spy is compromised by a political vendetta against her husband.
She opens the door of her brick house on the leafy Washington side street, a few turns from the German embassy. A Jaguar convertible sits in the driveway, the toys and bikes in the garage. There are children playing on the floor inside, and her look is icy as she asks, "Is my husband expecting you?" A British journalist had recently turned up at the door unannounced, and she's still angry. "I almost tackled you," she admits to TIME's Massimo Calabresi, and you have to wonder what a trained covert operative who was known as a crack shot with an AK-47 would care to do at the moment to the reporters and Administration officials who had laid her secret bare.
But she seems harmless now as she goes about making her grocery list. It's not as if she's a woman of mystery anymore:
she has gone back to work at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., after a leave of absence; she has been photographed for Vanity Fair, snapped at the Tribeca Film Festival; she has stood beside her flamboyant husband, the former ambassador, bestselling author, all-around gadfly Joe Wilson, as he accepted accolades from liberal groups for being among the first to puncture President George W. Bush's case for war. But her friends at the agency tell TIME that the furor around her "destroyed her career. And it's put her at risk." All she'll say is, "Things have been busy. I have 5-year-old twins."
Nor is it a mystery any longer who had a hand in revealing where Wilson's wife worked to TIME White House correspondent Matthew Cooper and at least confirming it for columnist Robert Novak. Wilson had never been shy about his suspicions: he had dreamed aloud of seeing the President's chief strategist Karl Rove "frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." Only now it was official: last Wednesday, Cooper had testified to the grand jury investigating the leak that it was indeed Rove who told him Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, though without using her name. That Rove was a secret source was already public knowledge after Newsweek published the contents of one of Cooper's e-mails that Time Inc. had given to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald after resisting all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the company's appeal.