NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Sandee.
Jessie McDowell, an attractive blonde woman in her 40’s, is in a skyscraper office, meeting with a client in Kuala Lumpur. Her client is a no-show, but his young nephew tries to get her to talk to him instead. A message comes in that the uncle will not be able to attend, but invites her to a private party in the evening. She agrees, and accepts a ride from the nephew. Along the way, they stop the car, and another car pulls up behind them. She tells him that she is a CIA agent, and his uncle has been in contact with a terrorist group. She will protect him if he agrees to help her, but he must ask to hire a cleaner to come in 3x a weekthen she will know he is on board. If he doesn’t help her, then people will kill him and his entire family. She returns to the US, and while at work at CIA offices, they pick up a message that he has asked for a cleaner to comeintel from him begins to trickle in. “Jessie” smiles. The nephew heard of nuclear components being for sale and has some information about the buyer. Jessie is asked to head up a team for the investigation.
Jessie is really Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts), a CIA operative for 18 years. Her husband is Joe Wilson (Sean Penn), a former Ambassador and special assistant in African affairs. Her husband knows she’s an undercover operative for the CIA, but none of their friends do.
Valerie stays late and looks over satellite photos, and intel, and puts together her team. Joe comes to CIA headquarters, and Valerie introduces him to her team and boss. He is questioned about his knowledge of Niger and his connections there. Since he worked there for 5 years, he knows many people, including both the former and current leaders. They brief him on “yellowcake” a refined form of uranium used in nuclear weapons, and then ask him for his help. Jim agrees-he will fly to Niger and try to find out if there was a sale of 500 tons of yellowcake to Saddam Hussein.
Information at the CIA also shows that Iraq recently purchased hundreds of aluminum tubes. These are suspected in being used in a centrifuge, used to make nuclear weapons. At a meeting there, Valerie tells them that previously, she obtained some of these exact pipes and had them analyzed by professors and experts. Their educated opinion was that they were NOT for nuclear use: they were too wide and too long with the current technology to be used that way. One member of the group pushes that experts can be wrong-they could be for nuclear use or for bombs. He seems bent on believing that they have potential to be a WMD (weapon of mass destruction).
Joe visits diplomats, both current and previous, and asks about the possible uranium sale. He talks to well-connected civilians, and goes to different places, to see if anyone saw or heard anything. To transport 500 tons would require many trucks, like a convoy. The fact that no remembers seeing anything like this in these remote areas would be “like a kid forgetting Christmas”. He returns and presents the information to the CIA and they evaluate his information and opinion. The boss tells Valerie that they will write up the report and submit it, and then they will send someone else to corroborate Joe’s evaluation. She is incredulous that they will basically redo the trip.
June 2002-a team of men from Vice President Cheney’s office show at the CIA, including Lewis “Scooter” Libby (David Andrews), who is the Chief of Staff to VP Cheney. They question everyone involved with the aluminum pipes or uranium investigation and repeatedly ask if they are absolutely 100% sure there are no WMD. Valerie and the others all tell him that no intel is guaranteed 100% accurate, but the very strong likelihood is that there are no WMD.
Valerie goes to visit a doctor at a hospital in ClevelandDr. Zahraa is an Iraqi whose brother is an engineer in Iraq. She asks her if she will fly to visit her brother, and question him about the nuclear capabilities of Iraq. She has not been back for 10 years, and refuses. Valerie guarantees his safety and of any other scientists that need to flee Iraq and Dr. Zahraa agrees.
Meanwhile, President Bush speaks to the country on television, and states that if Iraq will not comply with international inspections of their nuclear sites, and we find out that they have WMD, we will go to war with them. Carl Rove (Adam LeFevre) and Libby and his men keep re-reading the information on the case, and slant it to sound like Iraq may be using the aluminum pipes in a weapons program. They grill the CIA operatives again and again.
Valerie and her partner follow Dr. Zahraa as she flies to Iraq. They stop in Ahman and prepare her on the mission. While there, they see Condoleezza Rice on television say that we know that Iraq has WMD, based on reports from British intelligence. Dr. Zahraa gets in to Iraq and is happy to see her brother and other family members. She asks to talk to him, and they go out to the garden. She starts asking him the questions, and he tells her there is no nuclear program. He says that they are so cash-strapped, that they don’t have the $ or parts to keep the tanks operational. The other scientists that used to work with him back in 1995 either work with him, or have left or gone to Iran, and there isn’t any weapons program or anything in development.
At home, Valerie and Joe have dinner with friends, and the conversation veers toward uranium and the aluminum tubes from the news and how Iraq must indeed have weapons. Valerie and Jim sit and listen…and say nothing.
President Bush addresses the country and states that since Iraq has WMD, that the United States is going to war. The US starts the “shock and awe” missile attack on Iraq, and Baghdad is under attack. Valerie promised to get the scientists safely out of the country, but is told by her boss that since we are at war, that isn’t possible. She is stunned and outraged--we promised and they delivered, so we must hold up our end of the bargain. Confidentially, her boss tells her that he will deny it if it ever comes out, but she might want to go do it alone.
Several months have gone by, and no WMD have bee found anywhere in Iraq. Joe follows the war on TV, and does some research. He calls around and finds out that the British intelligence report that said Iraq had WMD, is referring to the original report of the 500 tons of yellowcake that he investigated and found to be false. Joe can’t stand it any longer, so writes an op-ed for the NY Times, called “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” and tells his side of the story. After this, Cheney’s staff tries to sabotage Joe in the press.
July 2004-Valerie and Joe are at home, and he reads the paper: Valerie’s name is leaked as a CIA operative by a source in the White House. She hurries to work, as she has agents out in the field that could be compromised by this information coming out. 15 scientists are in Baghdad and in the process of being smuggled out with her CIA agents, and she desperately needs to get a message to them about the leak. But she has been pulled from the case, and ALL cases, as her cover is blown. She begs, as there are lives on the line, but they refuse to let her contact anyone. She appeals to her boss, but he claims ignorance, and just walks away. He says “You were a good officer, but it’s over.”
Joe reads and finds out that a law from 1982 states it is unlawful to knowingly “out” an undercover operative, punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $50,000 fine. Reporter Andrea Mitchell asks him to appear on her show, and he agrees-he says they need to present their side of the story and he needs to defend himself against the lies. Valerie keeps quiet and says nothing, as she was trained to do.
Late at night, Dr. Zahraa knocks on Valerie’s front door. She asks if she knows if her brother and family are safe, and Valerie says she knows nothing. Dr. Zahraa is angry and feels betrayed; after all, Valerie promised, and now she fears the worst. She tells Valerie that several other scientists have been shot, as well as their families, and others have disappeared.
By September, there is a special congressional investigation into the matter. When asked, Carl Rove commented that “Wilson’s wife is fair game”. Months later, the investigation drags on and Valerie and Joe fight often at home. The stress and constant dead threats, and threatening phone calls are getting to be too much for Valerie. After a big fight, she takes their twins and goes to stay at her parents’ house. She and her dad talk about her marriage and the investigation. There is to be another, more thorough investigation, and Joe wants her to speak out, and tell the truth. Her dad tells her that no matter what, she needs to remember that outing her like that was wrong, and not to forget that. She thinks her marriage may be over.
Valerie goes home and talks to Joe. She tells him she doesn’t care what people think of them. They’ve taken away her job, her career, her peace, but they won’t take her marriage. They embrace. Joe asks, “Are you ready to fight?”
Valerie is shown testifying before the congressional committee doing the investigation. Joe lectures at universities and writes.
Libby is made to be the scapegoat, and resigns. He is found guilty by the investigation and is fined $250,000 and sentenced to 2 years in prison. President Bush commutes his sentence. Armitage admits he was the source of the leak in 2006. Joe and Valerie have filed suit against Cheney, Rove, Armitage, Libby and others, and are living in Santa Fe, New Mexico while they wait for the suit to end.