WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Dick Cheney asked a federal judge Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit brought against him by former CIA operative who says the White House leaked her identity to the press.

Cheney’s attorneys criticized the lawsuit in court papers, saying it invented constitutional rights, intruded on national security discussions and came two years after the statute of limitations had expired.

Former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson claims that she was outed as retribution for her husband’s criticism of the administration’s prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald spent years investigating who revealed her identity to syndicated columnist Robert Novak in 2003 but nobody was charged with the leak. Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who faces trial in January on perjury and obstruction, is the only person charged in the case.

Wilson’s civil lawsuit is continuing alongside Libby’s criminal case. In seeking to dismiss the case, Cheney said Wilson doesn’t have any grounds to bring the suit and, even if she did, the vice president is shielded from civil suits.

The suit centers on conversations between Cheney and Libby about Plame’s job at the CIA.

“Plaintiffs invite the judicial branch to permit intrusive discovery into those communications and to discern which among them might be, as a matter of tort law, wrongful and which not,” Cheney’s attorneys wrote. “Such an inquiry cannot be squared with basic separation of powers principals.”

In the criminal case on Tuesday, Libby’s attorneys dismissed the idea of a White House plot. They noted that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has admitted being Novak’s source and was never charged.

“It is doubtful that anyone committed an ‘underlying crime’ here,” Libby’s lawyers wrote. “The government’s investigation began as an effort to discover which government officials had ‘leaked’ Ms. Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA to Mr. Novak. After years of overheated media speculation that Ms. Wilson’s identity had been publicly revealed as part of a White House plot to wreak revenge on her husband, Mr. Armitage (who was no White House ally) finally confirmed in August 2006 that he was Mr. Novak’s primary source.”

Fitzgerald wants to keep most of that story out of Libby’s trial in January. But in court documents filed Tuesday, defense attorneys said they have a right to argue that Libby doesn’t believe he did anything wrong.

Libby’s attorneys said Fitzgerald has perpetuated the notion that Libby was the source and said the former aide should be allowed to tell jurors that he was not – and thus had no reason to lie to the FBI or grand jury.

“Members of the jury will have heard for years that Mr. Libby leaked classified information about Valerie Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA, due to inaccurate reports in the press,” defense attorneys wrote. “Indeed, the government has contributed to the likely misimpressions that potential jurors will have about this case.”

Fitzgerald has not specifically commented on that allegation. In court papers, he has argued that the upcoming trial should not be a forum to debate the leak itself or question why Libby was charged and others weren’t.


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