US Journalists Cleared to Sue CIA for Illegal Surveillance in WikiLeaks Case


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A federal judge has ruled that four US nationals can proceed with their lawsuit against the CIA in court. They claim their electronic devices were illegally searched on behalf of the agency when they visited WikiLeaks founder Juilian Assange at the ECuadorian embassy in London.

The decision by Manhattan-based US District Court Judge John Koeltl on Tuesday relates to a case filed by attorneys Margaret Ratner Kunstler and DEborah Hrbek, as well as John Goetz and Charles Glass– journalists who report on national security issues. Their complaint was initially submitted in August 2022, but the CIA sought to have it dismissed.

The legal case revolves around occurrences at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2017 and 2018, during which time the four individuals in question visited Assange. It is alleged that Undercover Global, a Spanish security firm that was contracted by the embassy, was infiltrated by US intelligence agents. The comany had installed covert cameras and microphones to monitor Assange and shared personal information about his visitors with the CIA, according to press reports and court documents.

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The legal grievance was filed against Undercover Global, its CEO David Morales Guillen, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and its former director, Mike Pompeo. Pompeo had publicly denounced WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and had displayed hostility towards Assange. The plaintiffs allege that this mindset prompted the agency to surveil Assange through a third-party entity.

Koeltl partially granted the CIA’s request to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiffs could not hold Pompeo personally accountable for alleged violations of their constitutional protection from unreasonable search and and seizure. He also struck down their complaints about hidden cameras, but allowed the claims against the agency regarding personal devices to proceed.

According to US media reports, Pompeo’s CIA was prepared to resort to drastic measures in targeting Assange. He was hiding at the embassy over fears of being arrested and extradited to the US. An investigation by Yahoo News based on multiple interviews with agency officials claimed in 2021 that Pompeo had considered various scenarios for getting Assange, including possible kidnapping or assassination.

In 2019, Ecuador permitted British authorities to apprehend Assange, following the revocation of his asylum by the country’s new government. He has been held at a high-security prison ever since. A final legal attempt to prevent his extradition to the US is set to be reviewed by London’s High Court in February, as annouced by WikiLeaks on Tuesday.

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