State secrets claim takes a blow in Horn case

Former DEA agent Richard Horn has chalked up a major victory in the fight to rein in the abuse of of national security.

Horn has been in a court battle with the U.S. government for the past 13 years in the wake of a run-in with the CIA and State Department.

Horn claims the CIA illegally spied on him, violating his constitutional rights, as part of an effort to thwart his poppy-eradication mission in the Southeast Asian country of Burma. Narco News published an extensive report on Horn's case in 2004, which can be found at this link.

In the wake of filing a lawsuit over the CIA and State Department's abuse of power, Horn ran up against the wall of national security. A lower federal court ruled that his lawsuit should be dismissed because the evidence he needed to prove his case was smothered under the government's claim of state secrets privilege.

Horn appealed, and the proceedings have been cloaked in secrecy ever since.

However, Secrecy News, which is a blog published by the Federation of American Scientists, reports the following today:

In an unusual move that may signal a new, more discriminating judicial view of the state secrets privilege, a federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit which a lower court had dismissed after the government invoked the state secrets privilege.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 1994 by former Drug Enforcement Administration official Richard Horn who alleged that the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency had unlawfully eavesdropped on his communications while he was stationed in Rangoon, Burma.

The government asserted the state secrets privilege in 2000 and moved for dismissal of the case. The government motion was granted by the D.C. district court in 2004.

But in a June 29, 2007 decision (that was unsealed on July 20), the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal. The Court did not dispute the government's invocation of the state secrets privilege, but concluded that there was sufficient unprivileged evidence on the record to permit the plaintiff to argue his case.

… The case was remanded to the district court level for further deliberation.

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