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October 16, 2005

Did Google Flame the Plame?

I haven't been able to muster much interest in the whole Wilson/Plame thing since the post — from over two years ago — in which I noted that Wilson had named his wife in his own online biography. Frankly, I'm surprised and disappointed that these names are still floating around the public consciousness. But some wild speculation from John Podhoretz has added an interesting wrinkle to the story (as wild speculation is apt to do):

What if she then went to Google to look up stuff about Wilson and found his bio online at the Middle East Institute? That bio (which is no longer available on line--gee, I wonder why) featured the line: "He is married to the former Valerie Plame and has two sons and two daughters."

As I recall, the type on that bio was incredibly small and in sans-serif type. She may simply have misread the surname "Plame" as "Flame."

What if, therefore, she learned about Valerie Plame in part because of Wilson's own efforts to publicize his story from his own bio -- and then, as she was talking to Scooter Libby, threw the name "Valerie Flame" at him? Evidently he did not react to the name, either because he was being discreet or because he had never heard her referred to as anything other than "Wilson's wife."

What if, therefore, Judy Miller's source for the name "Valerie Plame" was....Google?

The small font recollection sounds familiar, so I thought I'd check the WayBackMachine cache for that page. As you can see, the font is perfectly legible. Of course, a lost or changed style sheet could account for that. You'll observe, too, that the same bio on the Corporate & Public Strategy Advisory Group's Web site is also legible. It may be, though, that the bio (of which Mr. Wilson was apparently fond) once appeared elsewhere, in the bumbling design of a novice Webmaster. It may also be that Ms. Miller's browser or monitor settings rendered any one of the bio's reprints poorly. So the Google theory needn't be discarded, if it helps the reader to make it through another round of press coverage.

As for me: back to ignoring this flickering Plame thing.

Posted by Justin Katz at October 16, 2005 4:19 PM

After giving this article considerable consideration (redundancy, gotta love it!); I think a better headline might have been - "Did Google spark the Plame Flame?"

Posted by: smmtheory at October 25, 2005 12:30 PM