Federal judge chides US government over ex-DEA agent settlement

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] criticized the government Tuesday for a lack of accountability, despite granting approval [order, PDF; opinion, PDF] to a $3 million settlement agreement in a civil suit brought by former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) [official website] agent Richard Horn. The government evoked the state secrets privilege [JURIST news archive] to prevent documents from being made public in the case in which Horn accused the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] of spying on him. Despite granting the approval, Chief Judge Royce Lamberth expressed his displeasure with the government for what he believed was a lack of accountability to the taxpayers. He wrote:

However, it is not without some misgiving that the Court reaches this decision. Another member of this Court last year approved the settlement of another case (involving the FBI's investigation of the anthrax mailings in late 2001) which involved payment to an individual plaintiff of almost $6,000,000 by the United States. It does not appear that any government official was ever held accountable this huge loss to the taxpayer.

Now this Court is called upon to approve a $3,000,000 payment to an individual plaintiff by the United States, and again it does not appear that any government officials have held accountable for this loss to the taxpayer. This is troubling to the the Court.
Lamberth asked US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] if there was an internal investigation regarding who committed the wrong-doing.

Horn, a former agent in Myanmar, is suing [summons and complaint] Franklin Huddle, the Chief of the Mission of the American Embassy in Myanmar, and Arthur Brown, a CIA agent stationed there, for violating his civil rights and anti-wiretapping laws [text] during 1992 and 1993. Huddle and Brown are alleged to have intercepted communications intended for Horn and to have conspired to have him removed from his position. In August, Lamberth ordered the government to grant security clearance [JURIST report] to lawyers on both sides of the civil suit. In late July, Lamberth ordered that documents relating to the case be unsealed [JURIST report], and charged that the CIA committed fraud in keeping the documents secret.

 

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