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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday dismissed former CIA analyst Valerie Plame's lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney and several former Bush administration officials for disclosing her identity to the public.
The Court of Appeals in Washington dealt another setback to the former spy, who has said her career was destroyed when officials blew her cover in 2003 to retaliate against her husband, Iraq war critic Joseph Wilson.
Plame's outing led a lengthy criminal investigation, which resulted in the conviction of Cheney's top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for perjury and obstruction of justice.
President George W. Bush commuted Libby's 2 1/2-year prison sentence last year.
Plame and Wilson sought money damages from Cheney, Libby, former White House aide Karl Rove and former State Department official Richard Armitage for violating their constitutional free speech, due process and privacy rights.
But a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld a federal judge's ruling that dismissed the couple's lawsuit.
The court ruled Cheney and the others were acting within their official capacity when they revealed Plame's identity to reporters.
Government employees who engage in questionable acts, such as abusing prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay facility or engaging in defamatory speech, cannot be held individually liable if they are carrying out official duties, the court said.
"The conduct, then, was in the defendants' scope of employment regardless of whether it was unlawful or contrary to the national security of the United States," Appeals Court Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote in the opinion.
Plame's lawyer said she was disappointed.
"We're considering all of our options, including appeal, which I think is likely," said Plame attorney Melanie Sloan, who added that she is still studying the decision.
Editing by David Wiessler