When Karl Rove's lawyer announced that his client was off the hook in the Valerie Plame case, the attorney for Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, hinted that Rove's legal troubles weren't over yet. In the U.S. District Court in Washington today, Plame, Wilson and their lawyer made good on that threat by filing a civil lawsuit against Rove, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney and other unnamed White House officials for their role in disclosing Plame's identity as a CIA agent.
In their complaint, Wilson and Plame allege "a conspiracy among current and former high-level officials in the White House" to "discredit, punish and seek revenge against" Wilson for raising questions about the president's path to war in a 2003 New York Times Op-Ed column. Among other things, the suit alleges that White House officials violated the couple's First and Fifth Amendment rights; invaded their privacy; hurt their careers; and caused them to fear for their safety and the safety of their children.
Wilson and Plame say the White House conspiracy was driven by "discriminatory animus towards those who had publicly criticized the administration's stated justifications for going to war with Iraq," and they say that administration officials furthered the conspiracy -- and delayed detection of it -- by "giving false or misleading testimony to federal law enforcement personnel and/or the federal grand jury." Libby already faces similar charges in the criminal case now pending against him; although it seems that Rove won't be charged criminally, he too gave misleading information to federal investigators and the federal grand jury when he failed to disclose that he had leaked Plame's identity to former Time reporter Matthew Cooper.
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages. Although cases are assigned to judges randomly, it's likely that the civil suit will be deemed a "related case" to the Libby prosecution and moved into the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who could decide to postpone any proceedings in it pending the outcome of Libby's criminal trial. If and when the civil case is allowed to proceed, it will raise the specter of -- and give way to legal wrangling over -- that which the Bush administration hoped to avoid: public sworn testimony by Rove, Libby, Cheney and maybe the president himself about their roles in outing a CIA agent for political gain.