The wife of a former spy is accusing the CIA of blocking communication between her and her lawyer about a suit she filed against the intelligence agency in 2006.
In a brief filed in a Manhattan federal court on Friday, the wife of a former covert CIA official, identified in the heavily blacked-out case only as Jane Doe, says the agency violated the attorney-client relationship by prohibiting her lawyer from contacting her by phone or e-mail. Ms. Doe sued the CIA last April for denying her medical coverage and forcing her and her family to live in a foreign country after her husband was fired from the agency .
The CIA said the case was so sensitive to national security that it should be thrown out immediately. A federal district judge in Manhattan, Laura Taylor Swain, agreed and dismissed the case in January. Ms. Doe is now appealing to the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is the first involving state secrets in which the CIA is accused of violating the attorney-client relationship, Ms. Doe's lawyer, Mark Zaid, said.
"What became really strange about this case is that I wasn't able to file a substantive brief to challenge the CIA's classification or state secret privilege argument because I could not have a conversation with my client," Mr. Zaid, who has made a career of defending covert officials against the government, said.
The case follows a trend in which the Bush administration has used the state secrets privilege to defend the government against private lawsuits.
Mr. Zaid concedes that the case involves national security secrets, but said that in other similar cases, he has always been allowed to speak to his client and file a substantive brief to the court. He said the CIA has been more secretive in this case because the agency's treatment of the family was "morally wrong" and would embarrass the agency if it were disclosed.
"The way they treated the family would be highly embarrassing for them," Mr. Zaid said, "and that has a lot to do with why they invoked the state secret privilege."
A CIA spokesman, George Little, said the agency does not, as a rule, comment on pending litigation.