- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 13, 2006

Former CIA employee Valerie Plame and her husband, ex-Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, yesterday filed a lawsuit accusing Vice President Dick Cheney, his former Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and presidential adviser Karl Rove of violating their rights by leaking her name and CIA role to reporters.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said the White House officials improperly disclosed Mrs. Plame’s CIA role in an effort to “discredit, punish and seek revenge against” Mr. Wilson for disputing President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address justifying the war in Iraq.

It said the couple suffered violations of their First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights as a result of “a conspiracy among current and former high-level officials in the White House,” calling the leak an “intentional and malicious exposure by senior officials of the federal government” of Mrs. Plame, “whose job it was to gather intelligence to make the nation safer, and who risked her life for her country.”

“But for Mr. Wilson coming forward, it is unlikely that the administration ever would have acknowledged its error,”according to the suit. “The fact that the administration had to admit its mistake is one likely reason why the defendants chose to attack the Wilsons.”

The suit charges that the couple suffered a “gross invasion” of their privacy, have been impaired in pursuing professional opportunities, and fear for their safety and the safety of their children as a result of the public disclosure of Mrs. Plame’s CIA role. It names Mr. Cheney, Mr. Libby, Mr. Rove and 10 unnamed administration officials and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The couple’s attorney, Christopher Wolf, was not available yesterday for comment, but scheduled a press conference for today.

Mrs. Plame’s CIA identity was disclosed in a July 14, 2003, column by conservative commentator Robert Novak, who identified the sources as two senior Bush administration officials and an unspecified CIA source. Earlier this week, in his first public comments on the case, Mr. Novak identified Mr. Rove and CIA spokesman Bill Harlow as two of the sources but said: “My primary source has not come forward to identify himself.”

In his 2003 column, Mr. Novak wrote that Mrs. Plame had helped initiate her husband’s 2002 mission to Niger to investigate reports that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire uranium from there. The column appeared just days after Mr. Wilson, in a New York Times opinion column, accused the administration of misusing intelligence to justify invading Iraq.

In his syndicated column this week, Mr. Novak said he had cooperated with special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s investigation “while trying to protect journalistic privileges” and to shield sources who had not revealed themselves. Mr. Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate the leak after Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself because of his close relationships with White House officials.

Mr. Libby is the only administration official charged so far in the leak investigation, and he faces trial in January on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to FBI agents and a federal grand jury. Last month, Mr. Fitzgerald told Mr. Rove’s attorneys that he did not intend to seek criminal charges against their client.

Mr. Cheney has been described in court filings in the Rove case as a key player in White House attempts to counter Mr. Wilson’s charges. Mr. Libby told the grand jury that the vice president was upset about Mr. Wilson’s accusations in the New York Times and that they discussed the story daily.

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