Federal judge tosses Plame's civil lawsuit against Bush officials
A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to hold Vice President Dick Cheney and others personally responsible for damages...
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to hold Vice President Dick Cheney and others personally responsible for damages arising from the 2003 disclosure of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled that the civil suit by Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, was pre-empted by other laws that protect federal workers.
He also ruled that the actions of Cheney and other officials, while arguably "highly unsavory," were still within the scope of their government service. Federal officials are normally granted immunity from being sued in an individual capacity so long as their actions fall within their customary duties in government.
Lee Anne McBride, Cheney's spokeswoman, said the vice president "is pleased that the court has dismissed this lawsuit."
Lawyers for Plame and Wilson said they were disappointed but not surprised with the 41-page ruling, and said they would appeal.
The suit has paralleled a separate criminal investigation by a special prosecutor that resulted in the conviction by a federal jury in March of former Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Libby, whose prison sentence of 30 months in the criminal case was commuted by President Bush, was also named in the Plame suit. So were Karl Rove, Bush's political strategist, and Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state.
Rove and Armitage have admitted they gave information about Plame to columnist Robert Novak for a column published July 14, 2003, in which Plame's identity was publicly revealed for the first time. Libby's federal trial showed that Libby also spoke with reporters about Plame, and that Cheney was his source for that information.
In their lawsuit, Plame and Wilson claimed that the four men violated their constitutional rights, including their rights to privacy and equal protection under the laws.
Wilson also claimed that the officials violated his free-speech rights. Plame's identity was exposed eight days after Wilson wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in which he accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence in Iraq. The trial revealed a focused campaign within Cheney's office to discredit Wilson.
"The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory," Bates wrote.
"But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism, such as that levied by Mr. Wilson against the Bush administration's handling of prewar foreign intelligence, by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level executive-branch officials."
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