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DC Circuit rules Bush administration officials immune to CIA leak lawsuit

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit on Tuesday upheld [opinion, PDF] the dismissal of a lawsuit against members of the Bush administration which was brought by Valerie Plame [Washington Post profile], the former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative whose disclosed identity precipitated the 2003 CIA leak scandal [JURIST news archive]. The appellate court found that the officials who allegedly leaked information about Plame's identity were acting within the scope of their employment, and such government workers are generally protected by qualified immunity. Dissenting in part, Justice Rogers disagreed with the court's finding that the lawsuit “would inevitably require judicial intrusion into matters of national security and sensitive intelligence information,” and wrote:

The disclosure concerns identified by the court as counselling hesitation are either unfounded or premature because there has been no discovery or presentation by the Wilsons to the district court of how they will attempt to prove their claims. Contrary to separation of powers, then, the court effectively cedes to Congress the judiciary’s defined role to decide issues arising under the Constitution
Last month, US District Judge John Bates had dismissed [JURIST report] the lawsuit, ruling that the court lacked jurisdiction over her tort claim. AP has more.

The suit, filed [JURIST report] last year against Vice President Dick Cheney, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove [official profile], and former vice-presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [JURIST news archive], asserted that they and 10 unnamed administration officials violated Plame's rights to privacy, free speech, and equal protection under the US Constitution by conspiring to expose her, threatening her career and endangering her family. Plame contends that the defendants revealed her identity as an undercover CIA operative in retaliation for the statements made by her husband, former US ambassador Joseph Wilson [BBC profile], in which he denied Bush administration claims that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase materials for a nuclear weapon. Libby was convicted in March 2007 of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the case and sentenced [JURIST reports] to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine. President George W. Bush commuted [JURIST report] his prison sentence last year.

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