CIA leak civil lawsuit court actions
Art Lien, NBC News
Valerie Plame Wilson, left foreground, watches as Karl Rove's attorney Bob Luskin argues to dismiss her civil suit against administration officials.
By Producer
NBC News
updated 5/17/2007 3:05:48 PM ET 2007-05-17T19:05:48

The legal battle in the CIA leak case continued Thursday in U.S. District Court where outed CIA covert agent Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, have filed a lawsuit against four current or former top Bush administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney's attorney John Kester called the suit, "a fishing expedition."

Mrs. Wilson attended the hearing before U.S. District Judge John Bates who said it was a "serious case" with "serious issues."  

Lawyers for the vice president, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; White House political adviser Karl Rove; and former State Department Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage argued in an attempt to get the lawsuit thrown out of court.

The Wilson's accuse Cheney and other White House officials of conspiring to destroy Mrs. Wilson's career at the CIA.

Cheney's attorney also characterized the accusations against his client as comprised of "fanciful claims" which he said were never before attempted in court.

The lawsuit accuses Cheney, Rove, Libby and Armitage of revealing Valerie Wilson's secret CIA identity in seeking revenge against Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration's motives in Iraq.

Michael Waldman, representing Armitage, said that the Wilson's suit was only "based on a desire for publicity and book deals." Kester said that if Judge Bates agreed to go forward with the case it would inevitably turn into a "fishing expedition about the duties in the CIA."

And Kester vigorously defended Cheney's ability to criticize Wilson's assertions in a New York Times op-ed, where the former Ambassador said the Bush Administration "twisted" some pre-war intelligence about Iraq's nuclear capabilities.  Kester said the Vice President's immunity to the lawsuit was "absolute."

But Judge Bates interjected that only the President has the "unique" immunities.

Erwin Chemerinsky, the Wilson's attorney said the case is about, "egregious conduct by defendants that ruined a woman's career."

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In March at a House of Representatives hearing, Valerie Wilson testified and said, "My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White house and the State Department"

She described how it felt to see her true identity exposed in the morning paper, her career destroyed she said.

"I felt like I had been hit in the gut, it was over in an instant, I immediately thought of my family's safety."

Mrs. Wilson, whose identity was leaked to reporters in 2003, after her husband began criticizing the Administration, claims her constitutional rights were violated by the administration and is demanding compensation.

Several administration officials, including Armitage and Rove, disclosed Mrs. Wilson's identity to reporters.

Judge Bates said that he will issue a ruling, but did not give a time frame.

No one was ever charged with the leak of Mrs. Wilson's name itself, which would have been a crime only if someone knowingly gave our information about someone covered by a specific law protecting the identities of covert agents.

Libby, the former top aide to Cheney was convicted in March of obstruction of justice, perjury, and lying to the FBI and will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton on June 5th.

Libby faces a likely sentence of 18 months to three years in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines.  The presiding Judge Reggie Walton is not compelled to follow those guidelines and could impose either a stronger or weaker sentence on Libby.

Joel Seidman is an NBC producer, based in Washington.

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