The Central Intelligence Agency recently agreed to pay $3 million to a former Drug Enforcement Agency official, Richard Horn, whose home was wiretapped in Rangoon, Burma, under apparently illegal conditions. That’s one thing–a squabble in a distant country over turf between the CIA and the DEA that led one official to bug another official. But here is another: CIA lawyers subsequently misled a U.S. court about the covert status of one of the CIA officials responsible for the bugging, so that the case against him would be thrown out of court under the so-called “state secrets” privilege. That is, it seems to me, a much bigger thing. The government doesn’t get a free pass for lying in a court of law.
Associated Press reporter Nedra Pickler explains the sequence of events:
Horn sued [The CIA's Arthur] Brown and [Franklin] Huddle in 1994, seeking monetary damages for violations of his civil rights because of the alleged wiretapping. [CIA Director George] Tenet filed an affidavit in 2000 asking that the case against Brown be dismissed because he was a covert agent whose identity must not be revealed in court. [U.S. District Judge Royce] Lamberth granted the CIA’s request and threw out the case against Brown in 2004.
But Lamberth found out last year that Brown’s cover had been lifted in 2002, even though the CIA continued to file legal documents saying his status was covert. The judge found that the CIA intentionally misled the court and reinstated the case against Brown.
The former acting CIA general counsel, John Rizzo, said in a court filing that the CIA’s office of general counsel did not know Brown’s cover status changed until 2005, three years after the fact. Rizzo said that one CIA attorney, [Jeffrey] Yeates, knew about the change but did not tell the court or his supervisors.
Brown disputes Rizzo’s account. In a statement to the court, Brown says that he met personally with two other CIA attorneys, Robert J. Eatinger and John Radsan, in 2002, within a few months of the CIA rolling back his covert status and notified them of the agency’s action.
Meanwhile, the ACLU has released a video documenting the lives of several former Guantanamo/CIA detainees, who have since been returned to their homes. It is a harrowing thing.