WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bush administration officials destroyed Valerie Plame's career by disclosing her identity as a secret CIA operative, a lawyer for Plame and her husband said on Thursday in urging a federal judge to rule that their lawsuit can go forward.
"In the end, it's about egregious conduct by the defendants that ruined a woman's career," Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky said as Plame sat silently in the courtroom.
But lawyers for Vice President Dick Cheney, one of his former aides, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, White House political adviser Karl Rove and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed.
They said the officials could not be sued personally when acting in their official capacity, that the couple waited too long to bring the lawsuit and that courts traditionally were barred from getting into classified CIA information, like Plame's job duties.
According to the lawsuit, the officials disclosed Plame's identity to reporters in 2003 to discredit, punish and seek revenge against her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for publicly disputing statements made by President George W. Bush justifying the war in Iraq.
The lawsuit seeks money damages from the officials for violating the couple's constitutional free speech, due process and privacy rights.
Lawyer Michael Waldman, representing Armitage at the hearing before U.S. District Judge John Bates, cited a "myriad of legal reasons why each claim fails" and said the lawsuit should be thrown out.
"Put bluntly, your honor, this suit is principally based on a desire for publicity and book deals," Waldman said. Plame has signed a book deal reportedly worth more than $2.5 million.
Attorney John Kester, representing Cheney, said that allowing the case to proceed would result in the examination of CIA activities, including how Plame's duties changed after the disclosure of her identity.
"This is a fishing expedition, inevitably, about the duties at the CIA," Kester said. "The courts just don't go there and the court should not go there."
Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said there was no evidence the couple suffered any actual harm or loss of employment, which is required in such cases.
The Bush administration supported the officials, arguing they are entitled to immunity.
Nobody was ever charged with the leak of Plame's identity. But Libby was convicted in March of obstructing the leak investigation and lying about how he learned about Plame. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 5.
The judge, who vigorously questioned both sides, said at the end of the hearing that he would rule in the future.