(CN) – The 2nd Circuit upheld a district court’s refusal to let the wife and children of an ex-CIA official use state secrets in a case against the agency. The plaintiffs can’t use protected information to argue that the secrets are not really state secrets, the Manhattan-based court ruled.
The wife, identified only as Jane Doe, alleged that her husband was fired by the CIA, for a reason that was classified. She claimed that her family had to move to a foreign country, where’s she a virtual prisoner, because the CIA has “refused to provide any assistance, medical or otherwise.”
Doe said she can’t leave the country and is “constantly fearful of eventual detection,” for reasons that were again redacted.
Former CIA director Porter J. Goss invoked the state-secrets privilege in response to Doe’s complaint. He said “even an inadvertent slip” could significantly damage national security, and the plaintiffs did not have a case without it.
He successfully moved for dismissal.
On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the government had unconstitutionally interfered with their ability to challenge Goss’ state-secrets claim by barring their attorney in Washington, D.C., from looking at the classified material.
The plaintiffs already knew the classified material they sought to use: the identity and history of Doe’s husband, a covert CIA employee; the reasons for his firing; the firing’s effect on his family; and the name of the country where they relocated.
“They do not have the right to use the information that the government has asserted contains state secrets to oppose that assertion in the district court,” Judge Sack wrote.
“Even if they already know some of it,” the judge continued, “permitting the plaintiffs, through counsel, to use the information to oppose the assertion of privilege may present a danger of “[i]nadvertent disclosure” – through a leak, for example, or through a failure or misuse of the secure media that plaintiffs’ counsel seeks to use.”
The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal.