Valerie Wilson and Joseph C. Wilson IV on Thursday
Ex-C.I.A. Officer Sues Cheney and Others Over Leak
WASHINGTON, July 13 — Valerie Wilson and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, filed suit on Thursday against Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Cheney’s former top aide and the senior presidential adviser Karl Rove, charging they had conspired to violate their constitutional rights.
The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court, accused Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rove and the former Cheney aide, I. Lewis Libby Jr., of conspiring to destroy Ms. Wilson’s career by leaking her identity as an undercover C.I.A. operative to the press. It says the three men had conspired to punish Mr. Wilson for his public assertions that the Bush administration had twisted intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.
The civil lawsuit, which does not specify any amount of damages being sought, is the latest chapter in a complicated legal and political story that began when Valerie Plame, Ms. Wilson’s unmarried name, first appeared publicly in a newspaper column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.
The fallout from that disclosure led to an investigation by a special prosecutor into whether the leak violated any laws and whether Ms. Wilson’s name was leaked as part of a campaign to punish Mr. Wilson, a former ambassador, for his criticism of the White House.
The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, did not bring any charges in connection with laws that prohibit the willful disclosure of the identity of a Central Intelligence Agency officer. But he did indict Mr. Libby, also known as Scooter, on perjury and obstruction of justice charges, saying he had testified untruthfully to a grand jury and federal agents when he said he learned about Ms. Wilson’s role at the C.I.A. from reporters rather than from several officials, including Mr. Cheney.
Mr. Libby’s trial is scheduled to begin in February. The judge has narrowed the issues in the case to whether Mr. Libby lied and has excluded almost all evidence about the politics surrounding the leak of Ms. Wilson’s name.
As a result, the Wilsons’ suit has the potential to keep alive those issues in a civil case, which generally allows a wider scope of evidence.
But the suit is also likely to face major hurdles, notably the issue of whether the officials have any immunity for their actions. The general standard from a 1982 Supreme Court case is that federal officials may be sued for violating someone’s constitutional rights if a reasonable person would believe they had violated “clearly established law.”
The pretrial motions in the Libby case have not, as yet, produced evidence that there was any willful effort to leak Ms. Wilson’s identity.
The lawsuit says the officials’ actions have led to “gross invasions of privacy” for the Wilsons and caused them to fear for their children’s safety because Ms. Wilson is now a target for those who hate the United States. The suit says the officials violated the couple’s right to privacy, freedom of speech and equal protection of the laws.
Mr. Cheney’s spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, declined to comment, noting that the issues were before a court in the Libby trial. Robert D. Luskin, Mr. Rove’s lawyer, said in an interview: “The allegations are without merit. We may comment further when we have an opportunity to review the complaint.”
Barbara Comstock, a spokeswoman for Mr. Libby, declined to comment.