After accusing the Central Intelligence Agency of deliberately damaging his career, an unnamed covert paramilitary agent on Monday voluntarily withdrew a lawsuit seeking to force the agency to conclude an investigation of him for alleged war crimes.
The agent dropped his complaint after resigning from the C.I.A., meaning its investigation was no longer a career obstacle, according to his attorney, the national security litigator Mark S. Zaid.
“The fact that they were refusing to even interview him yet keeping this case alive — he doesn’t want anything to do with them ever again,” Zaid told 100Reporters on Tuesday. “This really gave him a sour taste, which is what I see so often with these agency cases.”
A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.
Filed in August, the lawsuit offered a rare glimpse into the occluded world of covert C.I.A. paramilitary operations, a role which the agency reportedly sought to continue in recent years even as conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan wound down.
The lawsuit said that the agent, described as a male officer deployed overseas between 2003 and 2011, had been falsely accused of either participating in or knowing about war crimes alleged to have occurred at an undisclosed location.
The Justice Department had declined to prosecute him after reviewing the case, the suit said, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had investigated the C.I.A.’s treatment of him. As a result of the C.I.A. inspector general’s inquiry, the lawsuit claimed, the agent faced covert electronic surveillance and harassment by local law enforcement authorities cooperating with the C.I.A. His attorney identified them as police in Northern Virginia.
The agency last month sought to have the case dismissed, claiming the agent did not have legal standing to challenge its personnel decisions, and that he had failed to identify any specific harm to his career.
Zaid said his client, identified in court papers only under the pseudonym John Doe, did not intend to seek similar employment elsewhere in the government or in the private sector, something his bitter C.I.A. experience would likely have hampered anyhow.
“He’s not working in that environment anymore,” said Zaid. “I don’t think he’s very interested in it.”
Following the terrorist attacks of September 2001, the C.I.A. expanded its offensive military capabilities. The plaintiff described himself as a one-time member of the U.S. armed forces whose covert actions for the C.I.A. involved “offensive operations” against people deemed enemies of the U.S.
In reshaping counterterrorism policy, the administration of George W. Bush took a permissive view of how the Geneva Conventions governed the handling of detainees, allowing interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, that were later banned as torture. The Obama administration said in 2011 it would seek to prosecute just two of 101 cases of alleged detainee abuse.
In statements last year ahead of his Senate confirmation as C.I.A. director, John O. Brennan said the agency should favor spying over making war.
“In my view, the C.I.A. is the nation’s premier ‘intelligence’ agency, and needs to remain so. While C.I.A. needs to maintain a paramilitary capability to be able to carry out covert action as directed by the president, the C.I.A. should not be used, in my view, to carry out traditional military activities,” Brennan told lawmakers.
Jonathan Hafetz, a law professor at Seton Hall University, said the courts may have yet to finish with an era the C.I.A. would rather leave behind.
“Across the last decade, the C.I.A. has been involved in questionable practices and in some cases committed war crimes,” he said. “The agency may have moved on, but these issues continue to surface and I think not all the facts are known.”
According to Zaid, the agency refused to grant him the security clearance necessary to respond to the war crimes allegations against his client. As a result, neither he, nor his client, ever learned the precise nature of the allegations, Zaid said.
But Zaid said he believed the underlying circumstances implicated other C.I.A. employees, meaning the matter might not be finished.
“There were other people and it is possible it will exist,” he said.