This Could Get Messy…

Posted: July 14, 2006 in Beltway Drama

Photo from Newsweek.

Former CIA officer sues Cheney, Libby, Rove over leak

Former CIA officer sues Cheney, Libby, Rove over leak
Plame alleges Bush administration officials ruined her career

WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA officer whose identity was leaked to reporters sued Vice President Dick Cheney, his former top aide and presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, accusing them and other White House officials of conspiring to destroy her career.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, accused Cheney, Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby of revealing Plame’s CIA identity in seeking revenge against Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration’s motives in Iraq.

The lawsuit accuses Cheney, Libby, Rove and 10 unnamed administration officials or political operatives of putting the Wilsons and their children’s lives at risk by exposing Plame.

I’m not sure how the legal argument of their civil suit will hold up once it gets to court, but the prospect of seeing the Vice President, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and ten other unnamed defendants has liberals cackling with glee.

You can view a PDF copy of the 23-page complaint.

Some highlights:

1) Plame’s Employment Status

Page 3 of the complaint states

“On January 1, 2002 Mrs. Wilson was working for the CIA as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations. Her employment status was classified and not publicly known until July 14, 2003, when a press report precipitated by leaks from senior government officials at the White House revealed her status and exposed her.”

For those not familiar with CIA bureaucracy, the Directorate of Operations (DO) is the component which handles its agents in the field – spies, operatives, etc. While the DO is not only limited to spooks out in the field but also to its officers who work at CIA headquarters at Langley, it does provide some definitive evidence of what area of the CIA she was working in recent years before the Novak column.

I’m not sure how this will match up with what Republican critics of the Wilsons have been saying since the beginning of the whole sordid affair. In September 2003, Clifford May described his reaction to the Plame revelation in Novak’s column:

That wasn’t news to me. I had been told that — but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhand manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.

During a pre-trial motion hearing before Judge Reggie Walton earlier this year, Scooter Libby’s attorney said that he intended to introduce five witnesses who would testify under oath during Scooter Libby’s trial that Wilson had discussed Plame’s CIA affiliation with them.

2) Ten John Does

Page 4 of the complaint states

“Defendants John Does No. 1-10 are persons whose identities currently are unknown but who are believed to be persons who were either employed by the United States Government in senior positions at all times relevant to this Complaint or who were political operatives with close ties to such persons.”

The big guessing game in Washington from now until if this case ever goes to trial will be trying to figure out the identities of the ten John Does named in the suit. I have my suspicions but will not speculate.

Besides Cheney, Rove, and Libby, the potential witness list is mindboggling from a political perspective, especially if the case goes to court before the November midterm elections. The Washington Post has a good write-up of the suit with some legal and historical analysis on how and why the Wilsons might and might not be able to get Cheney to take the stand. The article doesn’t say, but I get the impression the same protections would not apply to Rove, Libby, or any of the ten John Does.

I think it will be a virtual certainty that Bob Novak will be called to the stand, especially now that he feels he can discuss the case publicly since his role in Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation is over. If this happens, you can count on the Wilsons’ legal team to ask him under oath how he first found out about Plame’s CIA employment. If Novak doesn’t try going the Judy Miller route, we may finally find out the identity of his original source, now that he’s admitted that Karl Rove and former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow were the other two.

I would also expect Harlow to be called in as well, to try to determine how he did or did not try to protect Plame’s CIA ties from Novak. I will write up a separate post on the Novak vs. Harlow discrepancies later.

The Bottom Line: the decision by the Wilsons to file a civil suit over the leak had been long rumored and does not come as a surprise. However, this choice of action will open up another avenue to get to the bottom of how this whole affair began and played out on both sides, and will likely cause the White House more political headaches in the weeks and months to come.

The real winners? The lawyers in the case. If a judge allows the lawsuit to proceed, they have a whole other case to worry about and in the case of lawyers representing players who were already involved in Fitzgerald’s investigation (i.e. Karl Rove and Scooter Libby) will likely make a killing on a second round of legal fees.


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