WASHINGTON - Former CIA operative Valerie Plame lost a lawsuit Thursday that demanded money from Bush administration officials whom she blamed for leaking her agency identity.
Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had accused Vice President Dick Cheney and others of conspiring to disclose her identity in 2003. Plame said that violated her privacy rights and was illegal retribution for her husband's criticism of the administration.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds and said he would not express an opinion on the constitutional arguments.
Bates dismissed the case against all defendants: Cheney, White House political adviser Karl Rove, former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
Plame's lawyers said from the beginning the suit would be a difficult case to make. Public officials normally are immune from such suits filed in connection with their jobs.
Plame's identity was revealed in a syndicated newspaper column in 2003, shortly after Wilson began criticizing the administration's march to war in Iraq.
Armitage and Rove were the sources for that article, which touched off a lengthy leak investigation. Nobody was charged with leaking but Libby was convicted of lying and obstruction the investigation. Bush commuted Libby's 2 1/2-year prison term before the former aide served any time.
"This just dragged on the character assassination that had gone on for years," said Alex Bourelly, one of Libby's lawyers. "To have the case dismissed is a big relief."
Plame and Wilson pledged to appeal.
"This case is not just about what top government officials did to Valerie and me." Wilson said in a statement. "We brought this suit because we strongly believe that politicizing intelligence ultimately serves only to undermine the security of our nation."
Though Bates said the case raised "important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials," he said there was no legal basis for the suit.
Lawyers have said courts traditionally are reluctant to wade into these types of cases, particularly when Congress has established other resolutions.
In this case, Bates said, Congress passed the Privacy Act to cover many of Plame's claims. Courts have held that the Privacy Act cannot be used to hold government officials personally liable for damages in court.
Bates also sided with administration officials who said they were acting within their job duties. Plame had argued that what they did was illegal and outside the scope of their government jobs.
"The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson's comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory," Bates wrote.
"But there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism, such as that levied by Mr. Wilson against the Bush administration's handling of prewar foreign intelligence, by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level Executive Branch officials," Bates said.
Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said Rove was pleased to have the case behind him.
"The risk of being liable for personal damages is not something anybody takes lightly," Luskin said.