Sat, Jul 15, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Plame sues Cheney and others over `outing'

AP , WASHINGTON

Former CIA officer Valerie Plame is suing Vice President Dick Cheney, presidential adviser Karl Rove and other White House officials, contending they orchestrated a "whispering campaign" to destroy her career.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in US District Court, Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former US ambassador, said Cheney, Rove and Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, leaked her CIA status to reporters to punish Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration's motives in Iraq.

Plame's identity as a CIA officer was revealed in a July 14, 2003, article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. At the time, Plame's job as an operations officer was classified information. Novak's column appeared eight days after Wilson alleged in an opinion piece in the New York Times that the [George W.] Bush administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq to justify the invasion.

The CIA had sent Wilson to Niger in early 2002 to determine whether there was truth to reports that Iraq had made a deal to acquire yellowcake uranium from the government of Niger to make a nuclear weapon. Wilson discounted the reports, but the allegation 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 should survive the legal maneuvering that usually occurs in such cases, it could embarrass Republicans in the next presidential election if Cheney and other top White House officials are forced to answer questions in depositions.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Rove, said, "Without even having had a chance to review the complaint, it is clear that the allegations are absolutely and utterly without merit."

Barbara Comstock, a Libby spokesman, declined comment.

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

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

"This lawsuit concerns the intentional and malicious exposure by senior officials of the federal government of ... [Plame], whose job it was to gather intelligence to make the nation safer and who risked her life for her country," the Wilsons' lawyers said in the lawsuit.

Instead of confronting Wilson on his criticism, the lawsuit said, the White House officials "embarked on an anonymous `whispering campaign' designed to discredit ... [the Wilsons] and to deter other critics from speaking out."

The lawsuit alleges that Cheney, Libby and Rove "secretly spread rumors" that Plame used her position at the CIA to get her husband sent on the Niger trip.

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