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CIA Officer Sues Agency Over War Crimes Probe

Alex Constantine - June 13, 2013

A new lawsuit brought by a current CIA officer hints at the existence of a secret overseas paramilitary operation that triggered war crimes allegations, The Cable has learned. 

On Friday, "John Doe," an undercover paramilitary officer will file suit against the CIA for "unreasonable delay" of an Inspector General investigation into "alleged war crimes committed in an overseas location." (The operation remains highly classified; details about when and where it occurred remain secret.)

According to his lawyer Mark Zaid, Doe was engaged in "offensive operations against individuals designated or viewed as enemies of the United States." His client believes he did nothing wrong, according to Zaid, but witnessed events that "concerned him." Zaid declined to outline what those concerning events might be.

The CIA's paramilitary activities have come under heavy scrutiny in recent months. With the ascension of John Brennan to the top of agency, there have been renewed calls in Congress to rein in the CIA's drone strikes and return Langley to traditional mission of gathering human intelligence. President Obama even took the unusual step in late May of publicly defending the agency's targeted killing operations -- while pledging to subject them to new constraints. Brennan himself has expressed his desire to scale back some of the agency's traditional military activities. "While the CIA needs to maintain a paramilitary capability," Brennan said in February, "the CIA should not be used, in my view, to carry out traditional military activities."

Unlike in the latest string of disclosures about the State Department and the National Security Agency, Doe does not consider himself a whistleblower, Zaid says. The purpose of the suit is to bring an end to the IG's open investigation into the alleged war crimes, which has put Doe on administrative suspension. "It has ruined his career," said Zaid.

But the process of taking legal action has led to the partial disclosure of the operation in question, and other unusual allegations. (The CIA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

For instance, following the operation, Zaid says his client's computer and cell phone were compromised by cyber hackers. At first, the client believed a foreign power was responsible and notified the FBI, which opened an investigation but could not determine the origin of the attack. After working with the FBI in its investigation, and finding it unusually cooperative, Zaid suspects the CIA was spying on his client.

The suit also reveals that the Department of Justice opened, and eventually closed, a criminal investigation into alleged war crimes carried out by CIA personnel. The IG investigation is believed to have been started between 2010 and 2011.

While it's unclear where the mission occurred, covert paramilitary operations by the CIA have become increasingly common in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Iraq over the past several years. On targeted killing missions, the CIA often collaborates with the U.S. Joint Special Operation Command, which oversees the nation's elite military units. But, as The Washington Post's Greg Miller and Julie Tate have reported, the lines of authority can be murky.

"You couldn't tell the difference between CIA officers, Special Forces guys and contractors," a senior U.S. official who toured through Afghanistan told The Post. "They're all three blended together. All under the command of the CIA." As a result of the overlapping roles, congressional committees covering intelligence and armed services often get an incomplete view of CIA paramilitary operations.

In any case, Zaid's suit opens a small crack into the type of covert missions that rarely see the light of day. Whether more will be uncovered about this specific operation is yet to be seen. Below is a copy of the suit Zaid plans to file tomorrow:

Complaint - FINAL


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