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BLOCK: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, have filed a lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney and other high-ranking White House officials. The White House leaked Plame's identity as an undercover CIA agent to members of the media. The lawsuit accuses the administration of conspiring to sabotage their civil rights. NPR's Ari Shapiro joins us. And, Ari, what does this lawsuit say?

ARI SHAPIRO, reporting:

Well, I'll give you just a few choice quotes from it to begin with. The lawsuit, it says, concerns the intentional and malicious exposure by senior officials of the CIA agent's identity. It accuses officials of what the plaintiff's call a conspiracy among current and former high-level officials in the White House. Basically, Joseph Wilson published an op-ed in The New York Times that was critical of the Bush administration's run up to war with Iraq, and this lawsuit accuses the White House of retaliating against Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, by revealing Valerie Plame's identity as an undercover CIA agent. It says that this was, quote, an anonymous whispering campaign designed to discredit and injure the plaintiffs and deter other critics from publicly speaking out.

BLOCK: Now, we mentioned Vice President Cheney, who else is named in this lawsuit?

SHAPIRO: In addition to Vice President Cheney, there is presidential adviser Karl Rove, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby. Libby actually left the White House when he was indicted for allegedly lying to a grand jury and FBI investigators who were looking into this whole affair. In addition to the three named White House officials there are ten unnamed co-conspirators who are accused in this suit.

BLOCK: Yeah, the plaintiffs are saying the White House conspired against them. What are they saying was the nature of that conspiracy and how they'd prove it?

SHAPIRO: They say it was a conspiracy to undermine the civil rights of Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson. They basically accuse the government officials of abusing their power as high-ranking government officials to unfairly punish their enemies. They say that the White House violated Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson's First and Fifth Amendments rights, and Plame and Wilson are asking for unspecified damages in addition to attorney fees.

BLOCK: Now how do this lawsuit coincide, if it does at all, or connect with the investigation brought by the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald?

SHAPIRO: Legally, there is no connection. The special prosecutor continues to conduct his investigation, the lawsuit against Scooter Libby that came out of that investigation is moving forward as it has been for some months now. And this is an entirely separate lawsuit. The substance of the lawsuit, however, relies pretty heavily on Fitzgerald's investigation. There are a lot of quotes in this lawsuit, in this complaint, that come from filings in the investigation. And I think it's probably safe to say that if it weren't for a lot of the investigative work that Patrick Fitzgerald did, a lot of the facts that this lawsuit relies upon to make its case, would not have been known and the potential for the lawsuit may not have even been here in the first place. So there's a close connection with them even though there is no legal tie-in.

BLOCK: NPR's Ari Shapiro thanks very much.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

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