Former CIA officer Valerie Plame wants to kick President Trump off Twitter.
“Time and again his use of this huge global platform has major consequences in the real world,” Plame writes on her GoFundMe #BuyTwitter page. “Trump has already brought us closer to nuclear war than any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. We can’t take Trump’s nukes away (yet!), but we can take away his biggest megaphone and stop him from tweeting armageddon.”
Plame’s campaign is not your average GoFundMe project to pay for Uncle Ernie’s emergency hernia operation.
Plame, who ran counterproliferation operations for the CIA, is seeking to raise $1 billion to buy shares in Twitter. Her goal: force the company’s management to rescind President Trump’s use of its platform.
“We’re raising a thousand dollars a hour,” Plame tells me from her home in New Mexico.
Plame has been the center of national politics before. In 2006, White House officials outed her as a CIA intelligence officer in a bizarre attempt to blunt criticism of President George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq. Since then she has written a best-selling book that was turned into a movie starring Naomi Watts. She’s now an activist for Global Zero, an international organization that seeks to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Plame says she’s not trying to silence Trump (though her campaign’s use of the hashtag #bantrump might lead some to think otherwise). She says she’s trying to reduce the increased danger of nuclear war created by Trump’s tweeting.
Here’s our conversation, edited for length and clarity.
Jefferson Morley: So your longer-than-a-longshot bid to become an activist investor in Twitter is about the threat of nuclear war. Really? The nightmare of our time is that there’s something laughable about the juxtaposition of Twitter and nuclear war. Yet it’s very serious.
Valerie Plame: It’s deadly serious. Last week John Oliver did a bit and he said, “Who knew the invention of Twitter would bring us to the brink of nuclear Armageddon.” Everyone chuckled, but it’s true. People who follow this issue [nuclear proliferation] are serious: Trump’s tweeting could really be catastrophic.
In the intelligence world, we know how close we’ve come [to the detonation of nuclear weapons], literally dozens of times, whether by miscalculation or accident or misinterpretation. We’ve truly been lucky. We don’t need to add on a 140-character global platform, the possibility that we escalate this [North Korea] crisis to a point where it moves inexorably toward nuclear conflict.
JM: What did you do in your counter-proliferation work at CIA? What do you do for Global Zero? What’s the connection?
VP: With the CIA, my focus was on nuclear proliferation: to make sure that terrorists, or rogue nation states, or black marketeers didn’t get nuclear capability. I loved my work and I’m really proud of it. It ended rather abruptly [laughs]. When I got out, I started getting involved in broader nuclear efforts. I’m very engaged with Global Zero. They’re an organization leading the resistance to nuclear war and are working toward the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons.
JM: What do other Global Zero figures say about your GoFundMe campaign? Can you convince George Shultz [Secretary of State for President Reagan] and William Perry [Secretary of Defense for President Clinton] to support the cause of getting Trump off Twitter?
VP: This is just started and it’s been snowballing. The Global Zero staff is reaching out to heavy-duty signatories, of which they’ve got a few. In terms of money, we’re already up to $60,000. It’s not a billion dollars, which I admit is highly ambitious, but it’s a lot of money. My point is to shine a spotlight on how dangerous Trump’s tweets could be and how it’s undermining national security.
JM: You need a few people who can write the Really Big Check. Not one with six zeroes on it, but the one with seven or eight zeroes. Have you talked to anybody like that?
VP: We’re working on that. I don’t want to say any names; I don’t want to jinx anything. But wouldn’t that be great? The goal is to buy shares of Twitter and force the executives to act on their own stated rules against hate speech and encouraging violence. And I think it’s fair to say, nuclear war is violence.
JM: What’s the most egregious Trump tweet, the one that violates the Twitter terms of service?
VP: “Locked and loaded.”
JM: What’s so dangerous about this tweet?
VP: That kind of language simply makes a bad situation worse.
JM: Are you trying to stop Trump’s tweeting? Or are you trying to engage in a dialogue with him?
VP: Some people say I’m trying to shut down the president’s First Amendment rights. Well actually, it doesn’t work that way. The First Amendment is supposed to protect the people from the government. And we all know that not all speech is protected. You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater.
The other thing people say is, I’m in it for the money, which isn’t true. If we don’t reach our goal of $1 billion, every bit of the money goes to Global Zero.
JM: The president doesn’t respect norms—the Emoluments clause, the White House ethics process, making factual statements. Does a publicly held company like Twitter need to respect the norms that protect a reckless president?
VP: That’s a huge question. I would just say Twitter is a global platform and with that power comes responsibility. I hope [Twitter CEO] Jack Dorsey and his lieutenants are talking long and hard about this. I hope they paying attention. It would be great to have a seat at the table at Twitter and get them to deal with this issue. Remember how long it took them to put on the “Report Abuse” button? They need to respond.
JM: How will you know your Twitter campaign is getting traction?
VP: They tell me we’re getting around $1,000 an hour right now. Let’s see what happens. We’ve just started. I want people to feel like they don’t have to just sit back and accept this danger. They can do something about it.