- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former CIA officer Valerie Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, said today they decided to sue Vice President Dick Cheney and presidential adviser Karl Rove because the two administration officials engaged in a “whispering campaign” to destroy her career.

Mrs. Plame told a press conference, “I and my former colleagues trusted the government to protect us in our jobs” but it “betrayed that trust. I’d much rather be continuing my career as a public servant than as a plaintiff in a lawsuit.”

Said Mr. Wilson: “We are under no illusions about how tough this fight will be. But we believe the time has come to hold those who use their official positions to exact personal revenge accountable and responsible for their actions.” His wife said they decided to pursue the lawsuit with “heavy hearts.”

In the suit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court, Mrs. Plame and her husband say that Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rove and Mr. Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, leaked her CIA status to reporters to punish Mr. Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration’s motives in Iraq.

Mrs. Plame’s identity as a CIA officer was revealed in a July 14, 2003, article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. At the time, Mrs. Plame’s job as an operations officer was classified information. Mr. Novak’s column appeared eight days after Mr. Wilson claimed in an opinion column in the New York Times that the Bush administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq to justify going to war.

The lawsuit accuses Mr. Cheney, Mr. Libby, Mr. Rove and 10 unnamed administration officials or political operatives of putting the Wilsons’ and their children’s lives at risk by exposing Mrs. Plame, who left the CIA in January and is writing a book about what has happened to her.

At today’s news conference, Mr. Wilson noted that he had written an Op-Ed column criticizing the administration’s defense of going to war in Iraq, saying, “I exercised my civil duty to hold my government to account.”

“This attack was based on lies and disinformation, and it included the compromise of Valerie’s identity,” he added. “I have confidence in the American system of justice, and this suit is about the pursuit of justice.”

The CIA had sent Mr. Wilson to Niger in early 2002 to determine whether there was any truth to reports that Iraq had made a deal to acquire yellowcake uranium from the government of Niger to make a nuclear weapon. Mr. Wilson discounted the reports, but the claim that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa ended up in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.

If the Wilsons’ lawsuit survives the legal maneuvering that usually occurs in such cases, it could be embarrassing for Republicans in the next presidential election if Mr. Cheney and other top White House officials are forced to answer questions in depositions.

Justice Department lawyers plan to review the lawsuit to determine how to respond, said Charles Miller, a department spokesman.

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