Couple Reiterate Claims They Were Punished

Former CIA officer Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV.
Former CIA officer Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)

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By Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 15, 2006

Former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, former CIA officer Valerie Plame, said yesterday that Vice President Cheney, presidential adviser Karl Rove and other administration officials knowingly lied and abused their power to get revenge against the couple for criticizing President Bush's rationale for going to war in Iraq.

Plame's identity as a classified CIA officer was allegedly leaked to the media by top Bush administration officials. She and her husband filed a civil lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court accusing Cheney, Rove, former top Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and other unnamed government officials of violating Plame's and Wilson's constitutional rights, invading their privacy, endangering their children and ruining their careers.

Plame, at a joint appearance with her husband at the National Press Club, said she would "much rather" be a CIA operative than a plaintiff in a lawsuit.

She said that she and Wilson, both of whom had worked in government for years, filed the suit with "heavy hearts." Wilson said the couple were under "no illusions about how tough this fight will be." But, he said, "the time has come to hold those who use their official positions to exact personal revenge accountable and responsible for their actions."

Although the appearance was billed as a news conference, the couple took no questions after reading prepared statements.

A Cheney spokeswoman yesterday declined to comment on the suit, citing a policy of not discussing litigation.

Legal analysts said they expect Cheney to argue that he is immune from the suit. But they also said that if a judge allows the litigation to proceed, the lawsuit could allow Plame and Wilson to demand documents from Cheney and others, and force the vice president to sit for a deposition.

At the press club yesterday, Wilson declared, "This remains a nation of law, and no administration official is above the law.

"This suit is about the pursuit of justice," said Wilson, who served as U.S. ambassador to two African countries and acting ambassador to Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. The couple are seeking unspecified monetary damages.

The couple's suit accuses the Bush administration aides of leaking Plame's identity to "discredit, punish and seek revenge against the plaintiffs" to get back at Wilson for publicly questioning the rationale for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in an opinion piece in the New York Times.

Wilson said yesterday that he told the administration repeatedly that, after two missions to Niger to investigate, he had "found no evidence" that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger for nuclear weapons. Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, which have not been found, was one of Bush's main justifications for going to war.

Despite Wilson's findings, Bush referred to the uranium charges in his 2003 State of the Union speech, during which he outlined his reasons for invading Iraq, which followed in March of that year.

Wilson said he wrote the op-ed piece, titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," because he felt he had to exercise his "civic duty to hold my government to account."

Eight days after Wilson's opinion piece appeared, Plame's secret identity as a CIA officer was revealed in an article by syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak.

Libby is the only administration official to have been indicted in the three-year investigation into the leaks. Libby, who resigned as Cheney's chief of staff immediately after the indictment was announced, faces perjury and obstruction of justice charges next year. Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald cleared Rove of criminal jeopardy last month.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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