Jurisdiction

Valerie Plame Suit Dismissed


A federal judge has dismissed on jurisdictional grounds the privacy and constitutional claims for damages brought by former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband against senior Bush administration officials.

Because they have not exhausted their administrative remedies under the Federal Tort Claims Act, there is no subject-matter jurisdiction in federal court to hear the case, explains U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in his opinion in the case.

But the judge also wrote that he was concerned about “creating a private right of action for the disclosure of covert identity,” which could “inevitably require judicial intrusion into matters of national security,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Legislative history and U.S. Supreme Court precedent weigh against doing so, the opinion continues, saying that there no private right of action for tort damages on constitutional or privacy grounds in such a case.

Lawyers for Plame argued that a group of White House officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, acted outside the scope of their government employment by conspiring to to violate her privacy and federal law by identifying her to reporters as an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency. Hence, she should be entitled to damages on her common-law privacy claim, and for violation of her First and Fifth Amendment rights, they contended.

Plame argued that the administration sought to hurt her to attack her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, after he began criticizing the Iraq war.

“The alleged means by which defendants chose to rebut Mr. Wilson’s comments and attack his credibility may have been highly unsavory, ” the opinion states. “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.”

(Hat tip to How Appealing.)

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