Outed CIA agent Valerie Plame says Dick Cheney ruined her career--and she wants him to pay. Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson filed suit last week against the Veep, Karl Rove, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby and other officials. Here's our brief:
Why sue? Plame and Wilson, an ex-diplomat, allege a "conspiracy" among top White House officials to punish them after Wilson exposed flaws in pre-Iraq-war intelligence. They say exposing Plame as a CIA agent jeopardized their safety and invaded their privacy.
Privacy? They posed for Vanity Fair. Their embrace of the limelight could hurt them. But before columnist Robert Novak ran Plame's name, citing White House sources, she was unknown. Said her lawyer Christopher Wolf: "She was dragged into the public square."
What do they want? Compensation and punitive damages. Plame also wants Administration officials to be held responsible for "shameful conduct." Cynical observers note Plame has a book deal to promote. "This is a ploy," says a Republican lawyer familiar with the defense, "to have their names front and center."
Why now? Concerned about the statute of limitations, the pair filed the suit a day before the third anniversary of Novak's Plame column.
Could they win? Federal officials are immune to most suits for actions that are within their duties-- and a G.O.P. lawyer says Cheney, Rove and Libby were "government employees simply engaged in rebutting allegations." But constitutional expert Erwin Chemerinsky, who's on the Plame-Wilson legal team, is confident: "The evidence is clear that the defendants abused their power." The case could be put on hold until after Libby's prosecution for perjury in connection with the case. In any event, it's likely to cost the defendants thousands in legal fees--and devour energies at the White House.
Could new information emerge on the leak? If the suit moves forward, the discovery process could reveal previously unseen-- and potentially embarrassing--White House memos.