Cheney, Libby ask dismissal of civil complaint

I. Lewis Libby
Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has joined with Vice President Dick Cheney in asking a judge to dismiss a civil suit accusing them of conspiring to destroy the career of a CIA employee.Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP file
/ Source: NBC News

Lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney and his indicted former chief of staff, I Lewis "Scooter" Libby - who is awaiting trial on separate criminal charges of perjury and obstruction - have filed motions in federal court asking a judge to dismiss a civil complaint against them filed by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, former CIA employee Valerie Plame.

Vice President Cheney's attorneys argue that the suit should be dismissed on various grounds including that, "the Vice President is entitled to qualified immunity," and that Cheney is "absolutely immune from suits for civil damages."

The lawyers for the Vice President also write that the civil action by the Wilson's exceeds the two-year statute of limitations for such filings.

In July, the Wilson's filed a civil suit against the Vice President, Libby and presidential adviser Karl Rove. Later they added former State Department official Richard Armitage, who last summer admitted to disclosing Plame's name "inadvertently" to syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

The Wilson's accused them and other White House officials of conspiring to destroy Plame's career at the CIA. They said in their court filings that Cheney, Rove and Libby, leaked her CIA status to reporters to punish Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration's use of pre-war intelligence on Iraq in a New York Times op-ed piece.

Cheney's attorneys write, the Wilson's "have not pled that the Vice President  ever made any public disclosure of Mrs. Wilson's alleged CIA employment status. The sole pertinent factual allegation is that the Vice President communicated the fact of her CIA employment to his national security advisor and chief of staff."

The Vice President's attorneys also write, "Plaintiffs invite the judicial branch to permit intrusive discovery into those communications and to discern which among them might be, as a matter of tort law, wrongful and which not." Cheney's attorneys say, " Such an inquiry cannot be squared with basic separation of powers principals."

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has spent nearly three-year years investigating who revealed Plame's identity to Novak in 2003 but nobody was ever charged with the leak.

Joel Seidman is an NBC News producer based in Washington.