Cheney et al. are claiming the right to do absolutely whatever the hell they want
Attorneys for Vice President Cheney and top White House officials told a federal judge today they cannot be held liable for anything they disclosed to reporters about covert CIA officer Valerie Plame or her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.
The officials, who include senior White House adviser Karl Rove and Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, argued that the judge should dismiss a lawsuit filed by Wilson that stemmed from the disclosure of Plame's identity to the media.
The suit claims that Cheney, Libby, Rove and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage violated the couple's privacy and constitutional rights by publicly revealing Plame's identity in an effort to retaliate against Wilson. Plame's identity was disclosed in a syndicated column in July 2003, days after Wilson publicly accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate Iraq's nuclear threat and justify an attack on Baghdad.
Libby was convicted in March of lying to a grand jury investigating the leak.
Attorneys for Cheney and the other officials said any conversations they had about Plame with each other and reporters were part of their normal job duties because they were discussing foreign policy and engaging in an appropriate "policy dispute." Cheney's attorney went farther, arguing that Cheney is legally akin to the president because of his unique government role, and has absolute immunity from any lawsuit.
"So you're arguing there is nothing -- absolutely nothing - these officials could have said to reporters that would have been beyond the scope of their employment [whether it was] true or false?," U.S. District Judge John D. Bates asked.
"That's true, your honor. Mr. Wilson was criticizing government policy," said Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's civil division. "These officials were responding to that criticism."