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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 July 2006, 00:28 GMT 01:28 UK
Plame suit makes political waves
By Jeremy Cooke
BBC News, Washington

Valerie Plame Wilson at the press conference announcing her lawsuit
Ms Plame says Mr Cheney and others took revenge on her
It is an extraordinary development: the vice-president of the United States and a dozen other administration officials accused, in court, of deliberately leaking the identity of a classified CIA operative.

In their lawsuit Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, accuse Dick Cheney and others of endangering the lives of themselves and their children by revealing her status.

And, they allege, it was all done for revenge.

This on-going saga began in 2002, when former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson was despatched from Washington to Niger - the White House apparently hoping that he could gather detailed intelligence on reports that Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy uranium from the African country in an attempt to build a nuclear bomb.

Ambassador Wilson's investigation found that those allegations were untrue.

His findings were at odds with the administration's expectations and went largely ignored: President Bush and others continued to claim that Saddam Hussein was attempting to acquire uranium from Niger.

White House 'fury'

Mr Wilson went public by publishing a piece in the New York Times claiming the Bush administration had distorted intelligence as a pre-text for going to war in Iraq - a move which apparently infuriated the White House.

Dick Cheney
Mr Cheney is the most senior official named in the suit
And in this lawsuit Mr Wilson and his wife say that senior administration officials took revenge by leaking her status as an undercover CIA operative to the press.

The law suit names Vice President Dick Cheney, presidential adviser Karl Rove and several other administration officials, including Mr Cheney's former chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

He is already facing separate charges that he lied to officials investigating the leak of Valerie Plame's identity.

The White House is making no official comment because of the on-going legal proceedings.

But it's clear that this case has become a significant political issue.

Administration loyalists and Republicans in general claim that this law suit is politically motivated, and carefully timed, as America gears up for the November mid-term elections.

For many Democrats, though, the case represents an opportunity to expose what they see as the administration's cynical manipulation of intelligence in the run up to war.

The outcome of the legal proceedings is far from certain. But potentially much more significant than the legal aspect is the political one.

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