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Federal judge finds CIA committed fraud, orders documents unsealed

[JURIST] Chief judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] Royce Lamberth found [opinion, PDF] Monday that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] committed fraud in its efforts to keep documents related to eavesdropping allegations a secret. The judge ruled that the CIA must unseal more than 200 documents relating to the case. Lamberth is also considering charges [AP report] against 6 other CIA members, including former CIA director George Tenet [BBC Profile]. The judge wrote:

Although this case has been sealed since its inception to protect sensitive information, it is clear from reading the Court of Appeals 2007 public opinion in this case and seeing the unclassified appendix that was filed on appeal that many of the issues are unclassified. The government acknowledged that indeed, the case could be unsealed, and that much of the information is unclassified. Accordingly, the Court ordered the government to file with the Court unclassified versions of every document in the case.

The lawsuit began in 1994, after former Drug Enforcement Agency [official website] agent Richard Horn felt that his was he being spied on by his superiors in Myanmar. Until recently, the CIA had requested the documents remain sealed in order to protect the agents in the field.

CIA tactics came under fire last week as the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee [official website] announced [JURIST report] it will launch an investigation into plans to assassinate al Qaeda members. The Committee has already requested documents [Washington Post report] from the CIA and will likely hold hearings. The Committee hopes to learn whether former vice president Dick Cheney told the CIA to hide the program from Congress as media reports alleged [NYT report; JURIST report] last week. Former Bush administration officials have defended the decision not to reveal the program to Congress on the grounds that the program was only in the planning phase and not yet fully developed.

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