Yes, I know. The real issue is that the administration outed a CIA agent in order to exact political payback. And even more importantly, that the administration misstated evidence that lead us into a disastrous war. To get into the thickets of questions like "did Valerie Plame send her husband to Niger on a nepotistic junket?" is to play into a diversionary tactic. It's a little like seeing a woman get run over by a hit-and-run driver and then hearing an onlooker say "but you know, she was nasty to waiters." Even if true, how is it relevant?
Nevertheless. Here I go. Today Valerie Plame stated under oath: "I did not recommend him. I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved." Her role apparently was passing on the request to her husband. Grenier's testimony, which is what's often pointed to as the contradiction of this version, was hearsay. He testified that someone knowledgeable had told him that. And the Fitzgerald indictment didn't even make that claim -- it carefully said that it "was believed" she sent him.
It seems like reasonable people should trust the first-person account rather than the one that is at least second-hand.
Many conservative commentators (yes, you Tom Maguire and Victoria Toensig) are clutching on to the fact that Fitzgerald did not prosecute as evidence that there was "no underlying crime". There might have been some question about Plame's status as covert agent from a IIPA standpoint, but I doubt the case would have been referred to DOJ in the first place if this was clear-cut. I think it is more likely that the problem with the case was the difficulty Fitzgerald might have had in proving that the leakers were aware of her covert status. Since the information seemed to flow in an informal way, this was probably the major stumbling block.
Of course, as Plame herself said today, just the fact that she worked at the CIA should have raised flags.