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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

CIA on Spying Scandal: ‘That’s Classified’

'Any factual inquiry into these allegations—whether they are true or not—would implicate classified information, as it would require the CIA to reveal what intelligence-gathering activities it did or did not engage in, among other things...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) The CIA is facing a lawsuit from journalists and lawyers who say the agency spied on them when they visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while he was living under political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in August 2022 and recently scored a victory when a U.S. district judge ruled that their case could proceed on Fourth Amendment grounds.

However, the CIA is looking to shut down the lawsuit for good by exercising its “state secret privilege”—which permits the government to block the release of any information in a lawsuit that, if disclosed, would cause harm to national security.

The CIA revealed this in a letter to U.S. District Judge John Koeltl last week.

“The CIA has concluded that answering the complaint—by confirming, denying, or stating that it is without information regarding the allegations in this case—could itself serve to reveal classified information. The CIA therefore intends to assert the State Secrets Privilege,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Jean-David Barnea on behalf of the agency.

“The sole remaining claim in this case is the plaintiff’s allegation that, at the CIA’s request, the Spanish defendants illegally downloaded the contents of the plaintiffs’ electronic devices when they visited Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London and transmitted these materials to the CIA,” Barnea added.

“Any factual inquiry into these allegations—whether they are true or not—would implicate classified information, as it would require the CIA to reveal what intelligence-gathering activities it did or did not engage in, among other things.”

The CIA sought a time extension until April 15 so it can obtain the approval of the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to make its state-secrets assertion.

The plaintiffs—which include American journalists John Goetz and Charles Glass, and lawyers Margaret Ratner Kunstler and Deborah Hrbek—opposed the CIA’s request.

“Plaintiffs cannot understand how admissions, denials or the denial of knowledge—which is all a party must do in its answer to a complaint—can somehow be a disclosure of a state secret,” they said in their opposition.

However, Judge Koeltl granted the CIA’s request and gave the agency until April 15 to make a formal state secrets assertion.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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