Thursday, July 19, 2007

Federal Judge Dismisses Valerie Plame's Lawsuit

A federal judge appointed by George W. Bush throws out Valerie Plame's lawsuit.

The LATimes reports:

A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit by former CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband seeking damages against Vice President Dick Cheney, former Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and two others she accused of conspiring to disclose her identity.

Plame and her husband, former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, had alleged that Cheney, Libby, White House political advisor Karl Rove and former State Department official Richard L. Armitage had violated their constitutional rights in the events that led to Plame being identified in news reports in the summer of 2003.

U.S. District Judge John Bates rejected the lawsuit in a 41-page ruling today.

The Honorable John D. Bates

Without offering an opinion on the merits of the case, Bates said it was barred by other statutes that Congress had enacted to cover instances of alleged harm to CIA operatives and other federal employees.

"The court finds that, under controlling Supreme Court precedent, special factors — particularly the remedial scheme established by Congress in the Privacy Act — counsel against the recognition of an implied damages remedy for plaintiffs' constitutional claims," the judge ruled.

Bates also wrote that he was concerned about "creating a private right of action for the disclosure of covert identity," and that such lawsuits could "inevitably require judicial intrusion into matters of national security."

Lawyers for Cheney and the other defendants had argued in court filings that the lawsuit would be "inimical" to the ability of the executive branch to protect national security information.

Libby was convicted in March of lying to a grand jury and federal investigators about his role in the CIA leak case, and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. President Bush commuted his prison sentence this month, but left in place a $250,000 fine and two years' supervisory release.

Lawyers for Wilson and Plame said they would appeal the decision.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, and one of the couple's lawyers, said Bates' decision recognized that the Wilsons' claims posed "important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials."

But, she said, the judge dismissed their lawsuit on a threshold legal issue centered on the difficulty of suing a federal official.

"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." Sloan said. "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."