The Obama administration Wednesday took the side of top Bush administration officials - including most-vocal recent critic, former Vice President Dick Cheney - in the ongoing fight over the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court not to hear an appeal of a lawsuit brought by Mrs. Plame and her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, against several top Bush administration officials. The department's move continued the Bush administration's policy to fight the suit, which has already been dismissed by two lower courts.
"The decision of the court of appeals is correct and does not conflict with any decision of this Court or any other court of appeals," said the brief filed by Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Assistant Attorney General Tony West, and Justice Department attorneys Mark B. Stern and Charles W. Scarborough. "Further review is unwarranted."
The Justice Department filing agreed with the lower courts that none of the Wilsons' several legal arguments gave an appropriate basis for such a lawsuit.
The Supreme Court has not acted on the Wilsons' request that it hear the case.
The Wilsons filed suit in 2006 against top Bush administration officials who they say violated their constitutional rights by publicly disclosing that Mrs. Wilson was an undercover CIA operative. The lawsuit names Mr. Cheney, former White House senior adviser Karl Rove, former Chief of Staff to the Vice President I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr. and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage.
"We are deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has failed to recognize the grievous harm top Bush White House officials inflicted on Joe and Valerie Wilson," said Melanie Sloan, one of the couple's attorneys and the executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "The government's position cannot be reconciled with President Obama's oft-stated commitment to once again make government officials accountable for their actions."
The White House referred questions about the case to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.
The case follows a classic Washington scandal that has come to be known as "Plamegate."
Fallout from the controversy led to the conviction of Libby on charges of lying to a grand jury investigating the leak of Mrs. Plame's identity, though he was not charged with the actual leak. President George W. Bush commuted Libby's 2 1/2-year prison sentence, without his having spent a day behind bars, after the sensational trial that peeked into the sometimes cozy and questionable relationship of Washington journalists and their politician sources.
The scandal had its roots in the 2003 State of the Union address, in which Mr. Bush said Saddam Hussein has recently tried to buy uranium in Africa. Mr. Wilson became a vocal and public critic of this claim, which the Wilsons say led the Bush administration to leak that information to columnist Robert Novak as an act of revenge. Mr. Armitage was later revealed to be the leaker.
Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.