In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, accused Cheney, Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of participating in a "whispering campaign" to reveal Plame's CIA identity and punish Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration's motives in Iraq.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Rove, said, "Without even having had a chance to review the complaint, it is clear that the allegations are absolutely and utterly without merit."
The lawsuit accuses Cheney, Libby, Rove and 10 unnamed administration officials or political operatives of putting the Wilsons and their children's lives at risk by exposing Plame.
"This lawsuit concerns the intentional and malicious exposure by senior officials of the federal government of ... (Plame), whose job it was to gather intelligence to make the nation safer and who risked her life for her country," the Wilsons' lawyers said in the lawsuit.
Specifically, the lawsuit accuses the White House officials of violating the Wilsons' constitutional rights to equal protection and freedom of speech. It also accuses the officials of violating the couple's privacy rights.
The lawsuit alleges that Cheney, Libby and Rove used Plame to punish Wilson for his public statements about the administration's portrayal of the intelligence on Iraq.
"As their chief method of punishment, the White House officials destroyed (Plame's) cover by revealing her classified employment with the CIA to reporters," the lawsuit said.
Instead of confronting Wilson on the issue, the lawsuit said, the White House officials "embarked on an anonymous 'whispering campaign' designed to discredit ... (the Wilsons) and to deter other critics from speaking out."