Buying Off Victims of Illegal Wiretapping at $3 Million a Pop…

…That could get expensive.

That’s what the federal government agreed to pay to Richard Horn to settle his 15-year old suit against the government for wiretapping him in Burma.

The U.S. Government has agreed to pay $3 million to a former Drug Enforcement Administration official who claims he was spied on by a CIA agent and a U.S. diplomat while working at the U.S. Embassy in Burma more than a decade ago.

The settlement of a long-running lawsuit brought ex-DEA agent Richard Horn was filed tonight in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Still unsettled, though, is whether this will convince Royce Lamberth to ignore all the lies the CIA told the Court in an attempt to use state secrets to make the suit go away.

The government states that “a significant reason” it entered into the settlement is to pursue the possibility of vacating two recent court orders from Lamberth relating to the issues of state secrets and the issuance of clearances. One of the orders the government is seeking to vacate was cited by the plaintiffs in the most viable legal challenge to the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Obama.

“Leaving intact non-precedential rulings that resolve significant constitutional questions involving separation of powers does not serve the public interest, particularly when the parties have agreed to forego further review to achieve a consensual resolution,” the Justice Department wrote in a separate motion filed tonight.

Update: Josh changed the last quoted paragraph–which makes it all that more interesting. The government is trying to erase Lamberth’s ruling on state secrets. We’ll see how Lamberth feels about that.

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34 replies
  1. Hmmm says:

    Not wholly unrelatedly: Under a cloud of secrecy justified by claims of national security, the USG is right this very moment negotiating to force rules on all countries that would require ISPs to actively police all our internet communications for piracy, and cut us off from net access if accused — not convicted — of same. Also all attempts to defeat technical protection measures on information would be criminalized. Draft agreement’s been leaked and picked up by those DFH bloggers at EFF:

    Short form:
    http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/11/leaked-acta-internet-provisions-three-strikes-and-

    In greater detail:
    http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/4510/125/

  2. Jim White says:

    Naomi Wolf at HuffPo:

    I reached out to to Mr. Mohamed because he had known Mohamed al-Hanashi, the thirty-one-year-old Yemenite detainee, the prisoners’ representative — the man who knew all the crimes committed against his fellows — who was declared an “apparent suicide” in Guantánamo in June. (He had been called into a meeting with the admiral and the head of the Guard Force three days before the inauguration — never returned to his cell — and was taken straight from that meeting to the psych ward, where it is impossible to kill yourself, until his death). Mr. Mohamed had said Mr. al Hanashi was an upbeat person with no mental problems and would never have considered suicide.

    Lt. Commander Brook DeWalt, spokesman for Guantánamo, has confirmed now after four months of my asking the status of the investigation into Mr al-Hanashi’s death that it is now a Naval criminal investigation — meaning that he is no longer considered a suicide but a victim of a murder or a negligent homicide. Obama’s Gitmo is still refusing to release to me any more information — despite this secretive internal investigation being a violation of Geneva Conventions’ strictures on what you must do — hold an independent transparent investigation — when there is a death in custody.

  3. Mary says:

    Add in 1.26 mill for a handful of the guys we rounded up and abused after 9/11
    http://news.aol.com/article/immigrant-men-detained-in-911-roundups/751465

    Five immigrant men who were detained in roundups and eventually deported following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 have reached a $1.26 million settlement with the U.S. government.
    The men were part of a lawsuit against the government over the roundups that put them in federal detention and the abuse they say they suffered while they were there.

    What Lamberth does or doesn’t do on sanctions is up in the air, he’s in a very strong position to go forward with them if he wants. On vacating his opinions, though, I think DOJ has a shot at that if part of the settlement was for the motion to vacate to be joint (best) or unopposed.

    Some of the first decent lawyering anyone in that Dept has done in the American War On Law. Too bad it’s in this conext. I guess it was just a matter of time for the evil to spread from the bottom feeders to the lawyers with actual competence.

    • bmaz says:

      No kidding, the only solace before was that crazed and crappy lawyering was done, which allowed for avenues of attack; when you get more competent and cohesive attorneys on the job, the balls can get taken out of the air quite nicely I bet.

  4. Mary says:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/27/ex-gitmo-detainees-sue-uk_n_335468.html

    Several other ex-detainees are suing the British High Court to make sessions and evidence public in their civil suits for damages for Britain’s collusion in their torture.

    Seven former Guantanamo Bay detainees asked the High Court in London on Tuesday to reject a government request to use secret sessions to hear allegations that Britain was complicit in their torture overseas.


    Britain denies that it colluded in torture overseas, and insists it fought to win the release of the men from Guantanamo and checked on their welfare there.

    Government lawyers argue they cannot publicly disclose some of around 20,000 secret documents in the case because of the risk of jeopardizing national security or damaging relations with international allies.

    • fatster says:

      Just linked to an article about another prisoner being released from Gitmo on the “Banksters” thread.

      And here’s this FWIW:

      Italian judge mulls CIA extraordinary renditions
      Deliberations start in trial of 26 Americans accused of kidnapping Egyptian cleric from Italy

      “A verdict was expected later Wednesday.”

      Link.

      • fatster says:

        rawstory is saying the verdict is in. They are developing the story now and will post it very soon, I guess.

          • Mary says:

            And where will we find that US press headline,

            “Obama Administration Helps 23 Americans Convicted of Kidnap/Torture Conspiracies Evade Italian Prison”

            @21 The only thing that might make me respond differently is that this was pretty egregious stuff, and with Qualcomm out there are such a high profile ongoing sanctions case, maybe there’s some hope.

            Or not.

            • bmaz says:

              I dunno, I suppose it is possible, but Lamberth let himself be beat over the head with this BS for years before he ever bothered to address it toughly. At heart, I still think Lamberth will give the govt. the benefit. Hope I am wrong.

            • fatster says:

              See bmaz @ 31 on the next (“Break with Bankers”) article where he points out that the US has already done the groundwork to guarantee non-extradition, etc., though we do get a tiny crumb (the agents probably can’t travel as freely as they’d wish on vacations, etc.).

              That said, I think it will send a message globally. And I do need to hang on to that right now. Kinda my blankey, I guess.

              • Mary says:

                Oh yeah, I realize Obamaco has followed through on the Bush set up to bar extradition – that’s why I put in “Evade” Italian Prison. I don’t think Obama has done anything to “undo” the promotions given to Jeff Castelli after the Italian Job, either.

                I do think it gives courts like the British court some additional toe hold (although Spataro had to go to trial with no classified info). And it would, if they were interested, certainly give “Congress” a very decent grounds to have hearings about it here.

                After all, there were quite a few fingers in the pie
                http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/29/AR2005062902971_pf.html

                “Officials involved in the Milan operation at the time said it was conceived by the Rome CIA station chief, organized by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, and approved by the CIA leadership and by at least one person at the National Security Council. The station chief has since retired but remains undercover.” (WP, June 30, 2005)

                I remember back when Dana Priest had stories coming out a lot more frequently. She seems to have been pretty quiet of late, what with the McCarthy firing and the wingnuts going after her husband.

                OTOH, WaPo still has Kurtz and his fascination with Letterman and Spitzer. I guess if the Bushies had just been sleeping with co-workers instead of slicing genitals and putting together regimes using sodomy by object as a “prep” for interrogations, Kurtz might work up an interest.

                Or …

                • fatster says:

                  Thanks so much, Mary. And you, too, EOH.

                  I have so little to give, though I do gain so much reading and studying here. I do have this one humorous link to share, though, for a brief change of pace. (Humor sustains me.) If interested, just scroll down to the video.

                  • Mary says:

                    LOL
                    Stewart and Colbert give you a little hope, don’t they?

                    But you are dead wrong on this “I have so little to give” fatster. You give so much everytime you comment here. You may not appreciate what you give, but others do.

                    • fatster says:

                      OMG. I’m mighty tempted to render that into needlepoint and hang it on my wall. Many, many thnx for your kind words!

  5. Arbusto says:

    The $3,000,000 is chump change I’m sure the CIA can take from petty cash from their Myanmar drug trade. DEA, CIA/State at cross purposes? Who’da thought.

  6. Mary says:

    DOJ has decided not to appeal the al-Rabiah (you will not leave here innocent) ruling.
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/washington/story/78282.html

    Al-Rabiah’s lawyer, David Cynamon, has sent letters making formal requests for investigations of his client’s treatment to Senate Armed Services Committee and IGs for both DOD and DOJ. (that’s been such a successful route in the past – all you have to do when you find government torture is go to Congress and they grant immunity, or go to an IG who will spin out years finding that things could have been done better, are still classified, OLC opinion reliance means no criminal charges should be pressed, and oh yeah, statutes have run out anyway and — um, what was the question?) Anyway – good luck to him.

    Cynamon said he made a similar request to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Oct. 5, but hasn’t received a response.

    Imagine that – when tossing out a catch phrase of “no one is above the law” or deep sixing something in Durhams briefcase doesn’t get the job done, the office of the AG goes silent. Amazing.

    Oh, and just bc gov has lost, resoundingly, on the habeas petition, that doesn’t mean they have dropped their military commission proceedings against al-Rabiah.

    Still, he remains accused before a military commission of providing material support for a terrorist organization and conspiracy. Pentagon spokesman Joe DellaVedova said “no decision has been made on whether to drop the military commission charges.”

  7. bmaz says:

    Josh changed the last quoted paragraph–which makes it all that more interesting. The government is trying to erase Lamberth’s ruling on state secrets.

    Of course they are; that is why they are settling.

    • bmaz says:

      And I would note that collateral proceedings on sanctions and other things do not automatically become moot and merge into the settlement dismissal, but they usually do and I expect they substantively will here. I cannot see Lamberth taking anything more than a terse parting shot at them, but not much else.

  8. Mary says:

    Scott Horton at Harper’s put up a piece on the 2nd Cir en banc decision in Arar’s case
    http://harpers.org/archive/2009/11/hbc-90006024
    I’m linking it for 2 reaons, one that he is about the only one who mentions the prominent role of Pepsico’s Gen Counsel (and torture field trip badge earner), Larry Thompson, who has been largely neglected by Congress and investigators. Apparently if you are more interested in buying stray Canadians a ticket on a torture flight than in buying the world a Coke, there is a place for you.

    Also, Horton really highlights the dishonesty of the majority opinion (for example, the claim by the majority that Canada wasn’t willing for us to ship Arar there, when that was just a DOJ lie and is directly contradicted by mega-info available publically).

    He shows how our courts have evolved, from “those who torture are the ‘enemies of all mankind'” to “those who torture are the ‘Department of Justice of the United States, so we have to ignore it'”

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Lamberth could vacate his own ruling, but why should he? The ruling may be “non-precendential”, which only means that it’s not binding on other courts. So long as it remains a valid ruling, it remains on the record. It could be cited to and its reasoning might be persuasive for this court, other district courts and federal appellate courts. For anyone wishing to promote representative democracy, that would be a good thing.

    Attempting to vacate the ruling is attempting to strike it from the public record. It could not be cited in this or other courts, though its reasoning could be used, but only as if new – and doing so would have to contend with the stigma that the issuing court withdrew from, canceled, its argument.

    Attempting to vacate it is the Obama DoJ’s attempt to sweep up the trail of bread crumbs leading to that three-foot mound under the carpet. That’s a political decision made by its de facto client, the Obama White House, not the American people. Far better to raise the carpet and tackle the three-foot mound.

    The Obama administration, with the DoJ serving as its taxpayer-funded criminal defense counsel, is attempting to shield its predecessor’s (and possibly its) crimes from exposure. Predictable, but foul, and outrageous for a candidate that touted his top marks at Harvard Law and his credentials teaching constitutional law at Chicago.

    If the Dems lose badly at the polls in 2010 and 2012, it won’t be just because Obama chose Rahm’s strategy as his “way forward”. It will be because he abandoned the posture he chose to run on in order to pursue power and stability for those with it. His party would deserve whatever drubbing at the polls it gets.

    • Mary says:

      Lamberth could vacate his own ruling, but why should he?

      As quickie Devil’s advocate (although DOJ has that bench full right now) it’s because the whole of our justice system is supposed to be based on an advocacy system and if both advocates before the court ask for the withdrawal in connection with an overall settlement, it wouldn’t be a big stretch to give it to them.

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