The civil lawsuit by Valerie Plame, a former CIA operative, and Joseph Wilson, her husband and a former ambassador, alleges the couple's constitutional and legal rights were violated.

Wilson accused the White House of leaking his wife's identity to punish him for questioning the use of intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in the build up to the Iraq war in 2003.

Several news organisations wrote about Plame after columnist Robert Novak named her in a piece on July 14, 2003. Novak's column appeared eight days after Wilson alleged in The New York Times that the Bush administration had twisted intelligence on Iraq to justify going to war.

The CIA had sent Wilson to Niger in early 2002 to determine whether there was any truth to reports that Saddam Hussein's government had tried to buy yellowcake uranium to make a nuclear weapon.

Wilson discounted the reports, but the allegation still appeared in George Bush's 2003 state of the union address.

Lewis Libby (C) faces a criminal
trial over the alleged leak

An investigation into the leak led to the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a political aide to Cheney, on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.

Libby is the only person who has been charged in the case. His

 

criminal trial is due to begin in January.

Libby and 10 unnamed senior government officials and aides are also included in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says there was "a conspiracy among current and former high-level officials in the White House" to "discredit, punish and seek revenge against" Wilson for publicly disputing statements made by Bush justifying the war on Iraq.