The Central Intelligence Agency on Wednesday moved to dismiss a lawsuit filed by an unnamed covert paramilitary who claims the agency had wrongly accused him of participating in or knowing about war crimes.
The plaintiff, described as a U.S. armed forces member deployed for the agency overseas between 2003 and 2011, filed suit in August, claiming that the agency’s inspector general was deliberately refusing to close an internal investigation in an attempt to harm his career.
The agent alleged he had been placed under surveillance and harassed by local authorities cooperating with the C.I.A., after he sought to close the internal investigation. The F.B.I., his suit alleged, had opened an investigation into the C.I.A.’s surveillance of him, which involved “corruption of electronic devices” including mobile phones and computers.
A related Justice Department probe into the man, who says he was assigned to offensive operations against individuals seen as enemies of the state, was closed in 2011 or 2012 with no charges brought, according to the lawsuit, which said others in the C.I.A. had also faced related allegations.
In a motion to dismiss filed Wednesday, Justice Department attorneys said the former agent had failed to allege any specific damage to his career that had occurred or could occur, a requirement for legal standing.
Drawing in part on a 2009 decision in litigation by a different covert C.I.A. operative known as Peter B., the motion also suggested that C.I.A. employees had few legal options to challenge personnel actions taken by the agency.
The plaintiff brought his case against the agency under the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how federal courts may review agency decisions. However, Wednesday’s motion said federal employees’ labor disputes instead fell under the Civil Service Reform Act, from which Congress had chosen to exclude C.I.A. employees.
“Such exclusion both precludes C.I.A. employees from using the [Civil Service Reform Act] as a basis to challenge personnel actions and prohibits them from pursuing judicial remedies they would have otherwise had in the absence” of the act.
The statute governing the C.I.A.’s inspector general’s office fixes no time limit for internal investigations, which are also subject to “agency discretion,” according to the motion.
“No doubt plaintiff would like to know what is going on in the investigation and would like it to end without repercussions to him, but he provides no support for the proposition that the Inspector General must complete an investigation within a particular amount of time, or at all,” the Justice Department’s motion stated.
The agent, appearing as John Doe, has asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the C.I.A. inspector general to complete the investigation.
The misconduct supposedly imputed against the defendant is withheld from court papers.
The term war crimes is often shorthand for “grave breaches” of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949, which, in connection with armed conflict, include acts such as torture, deliberate killing, causing great suffering or injury, biological experiments and unjustified destruction of property.
In sharp internal disagreements early in the last decade, Bush administration attorneys disagreed over whether provisions in the Geneva Conventions applied to detainees captured in Iraq and Afghanistan or prohibited interrogation techniques later renounced as torture by the Obama administration.
The Justice Department announced in 2011 that it would take action just two of 101 cases of alleged abuse of detainees held in U.S. custody following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.