Wednesday, November 15, 2006

White House seeks dismissal of CIA leak suit

White House seeks dismissal of CIA leak suit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration asked a federal judge on Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit brought by former CIA officer Valerie Plame and her husband against Vice President Dick Cheney and others for alleged involvement in disclosing her employment as a clandestine CIA operative.

Cheney and the other high-level defendants in the lawsuit have valid claims of immunity because of their official positions, Justice Department lawyers said in their request to have the case thrown out.

The lawyers also said that Plame and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, failed to allege that any of the defendants had violated a constitutional right.

The lawsuit, filed in July, names Cheney, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, top White House aide Karl Rove and Cheney's former chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

It alleged "a conspiracy among current and former high-level officials in the White House to discredit, punish and seek revenge" against Wilson for publicly disputing statements made by President George W. Bush in justifying the war in Iraq.

The Justice Department's motion to dismiss the suit cited a Supreme Court decision noting that officers of the executive branch should not function under fear that their motives could lead to a lawsuit because it would restrict their ability to function as public officials.

"The United States has a strong interest in ensuring that federal officials are appropriately protected from personal liability in lawsuits arising as a result of their official positions," the Justice Department said.

"The United States believes that... the individual federal defendants have valid claims of immunity," the document said. "The vice president possesses absolute immunity from civil damages claims in connection with acts taken within the scope of his office."

The CIA leak case erupted after Wilson accused the administration of leaking his wife's identity to punish him for writing in The New York Times that the Bush administration had twisted intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the war.

A federal investigation of the leak lead to an indictment last year of Libby on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. He is the only person charged in the case.

Rove was investigated but not charged.