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Secret Suit over Unlawful Eavesdropping Ends in Big Settlement

The Department of Justice has agreed to settle a 15 year court battle with a former DEA agent who claimed that a former CIA officer and State Department official unlawfully eavesdropped on him while working in Burma. The settlement requires the United States to pay the former DEA agent $3,000,000.

Former DEA agent Richard Horn first filed suit over the illegal eavesdropping in 1994. The suit, up until the summer of 2009, had been litigated in secret. The suit dragged on for so long because of disputes about the applicability of the states secrets privilege, and whether Horn’s lawyers should have access to confidential information.

The tipping point in the case came in July and August of 2009 when U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the government to give Horn’s lawyers security clearances so they could inspect certain documents.

Although the government was appealing Lamberth’s order, the DOJ clearly did not want to risk the order becoming law—thus, the settlement. As part of the settlement, Horn agreed not to oppose the government’s efforts to obtain vacatur of Lamberth’s July and August orders, along with two prior orders that found the CIA committed “fraud on the court.”

Horn was represented by Brian C. Leighton of Clovis, California. See: Horn v. Huddle, 699 F.Supp.2d 236 (D.C., 2010)

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Related legal case

Horn v. Huddle