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Fair Game' is worth the drive

Now I want you to drive to Ithaca, in this weather, to see a movie? Right.

So, the plan this week was to present you with that box of Christmas candy otherwise known as "The Tourist," with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. Then Friday afternoon a couple movie buddies - one an intrepid driver with four new tires - said, let's go to Ithaca and see "Fair Game." Directed by Doug Limon (who did his own cinematography too), starring Sean Penn as former diplomat Joe Wilson, Naomi Watts as outed CIA operative Valerie Plame and a wickedly good David Andrews as Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, this film combines the individual memoirs written by Wilson and Plame to recount how the Bush administration justified the invasion of Iraq with doctored intelligence evidence about Saddam Hussein's nuclear program and then retaliated when Joe Wilson went public in a 2003 "New York Times" op-ed piece about what he didn't find in the African nation of Niger.

Well before the 9/11 attacks, the CIA was already investigating the regime of Saddam Hussein, in particular whether he was developing nuclear weapons (or "WMD," in the parlance of newspaper shorthand of the day). In 2001, also before 9/11, Valerie Plame was made head of operations for the CIA's Joint Task Force on Iraq. Plame's husband had been ambassador to Niger during the Clinton administration and therefore knew the country well, so he was in a position to be asked to informally re-check a persistent story that Iraq was buying "yellowcake" uranium from Niger (a form of uranium necessary for the fabrication of nuclear weapons). He determined this could not have happened and so reported back. In one riveting scene, Wilson watches a TV news broadcast of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell telling the United Nations that the CIA had determined that Niger had indeed sold "yellowcake" to Iraq.

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