Judge dismisses Valerie Plame's lawsuit

The outed CIA officer is considering an appeal in her suit against Bush administration officials.

By Julia Dahl

Published July 19, 2007 7:43PM (EDT)

A lawsuit filed by Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, against current and former Bush administration officials was dismissed by a federal judge today.

The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, was appointed by President Bush in 2001; he spent almost two years in the 1990s as a deputy independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation. Bates dismissed the case on grounds of subject-matter jurisdiction; that is, he ruled that he did not have jurisdiction to rule on the specific claims advanced by the plaintiffs.

Plame was suing Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney's former chief of staff Scooter Libby, presidential advisor Karl Rove and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. The suit alleged that the defendants violated the Wilsons' constitutional rights by "reach[ing] an agreement to discredit, punish and seek revenge against the [Wilsons] that included, among other things, disclosing to members of the press Plaintiff Valerie Plame Wilson's classified CIA employment."

Melanie Sloan, one of Plame's attorneys and the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said today that "while we are obviously very disappointed by today's decision, we have always expected that this case would ultimately be decided by a higher court ... We disagree with the court's holding and intend to pursue this case vigorously to protect all Americans from vindictive government officials who abuse their power for their own political ends."

Though no one was ever charged with the actual leak -- the applicable statute, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, requires that the leaker know that the protected officer's identity is covert -- Libby was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice and false statements made to federal investigators and sentenced to 30 months in prison, a $250,000 fine and two years of probation. On July 2, Bush commuted Libby's prison sentence.

Update: We just got off the phone with Anne Weismann, CREW's chief counsel and another of Plame's attorneys. There's been some confusion about exactly on what grounds Judge Bates dismissed the suit; the Associated Press has been reporting it as subject-matter jurisdiction, and that's originally how CREW -- which is trying to simultaneously read and digest the opinion, which is quite dense, while responding to reporters' queries -- interpreted it as well, and how we reported it. But we looked over the opinion with Weismann, who looked it over again as well after getting off the phone and e-mailed Salon to say that Bates did not dismiss solely on subject-matter jurisdiction.

There were five claims on which the Wilsons filed suit; one was a tort-law claim and four were constitutional. Bates dismissed the tort-law claim because he lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. The constitutional claims he dismissed because, he said, "plaintiffs... failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted with respect to their four causes of action asserted directly under the Constitution." Bates did not rule on the merits of any of the claims: "[T]he Court will not reach, and therefore expresses no views on, the merits of the constitutional and other tort claims asserted by plaintiffs based on defendants' alleged disclosures because the motions to dismiss will be granted," he wrote.

Julia Dahl

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