WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court said Tuesday it would not resurrect a lawsuit that former CIA operative Valerie Plame brought against members of the Bush administration.
Plame accused Vice President Dick Cheney and several former high-ranking administration officials of revealing her identity to reporters in 2003. She and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, say that violated their constitutional rights.
It was an unusual case and even some on Plame's legal team acknowledged the case was an uphill fight from the start.
A federal judge dismissed the case last year and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld that ruling Tuesday.
The appeals court said there was no constitutional basis for the court to step in and it declined to create one. The judges said Plame and Wilson could bring their case under the Privacy Act, though it does not cover the president or vice president's offices. The court also said it must be reluctant to wade into national security issues.
Melanie Sloan, Plame's attorney at the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Plame was considering an appeal.
"It is simply unacceptable for top government officials to be unaccountable for such a gross abuse of their power," Sloan said.
The lawsuit named former presidential adviser Karl Rove; Cheney's former top aide, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
Armitage was the original source for a 2003 newspaper column identifying Plame as a CIA officer. At the time, her husband was criticizing the Bush administration's prewar intelligence on Iraq and had become a thorn in the side of the White House. Rove also discussed Plame's employment with reporters.
The leak touched off a lengthy investigation that resulted in Libby's conviction for obstruction and lying to investigators. Jurors found that he told reporters about Plame and lied about it to the FBI and a federal grand jury. Bush commuted Libby's sentence before he ever served a day in prison.
The Justice Department declined comment.
Nobody was ever charged with the leak itself and Plame's lawsuit is one of the last remaining legal issues associated with the case. She can appeal to the Supreme Court.
Chief Judge David B. Sentelle wrote the opinion and was joined by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson. Sentelle was appointed by President Reagan and Henderson by the first President Bush.
Judge Judith Rogers, who was appointed by President Clinton, dissented from the ruling in part.