Dea Agents Accuse Cia of Tapping Phones
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The CIA and other spy
agencies have systematically tapped the phones of
overseas Drug Enforcement Administration offices,
according to a class action lawsuit agents filed
Thursday in Washington.
The lawsuit, which also names the National Security
Agency and the State Department, seeks a court
order barring those agencies from any further
``These agencies have a pattern and practice of
eavesdropping on DEA agents' and employees'
conversations while they are serving the government
overseas,'' said attorney Brian Leighton of Clovis, Calif.
But legal experts say it could be a difficult lawsuit to
win, especially since an employer - in this case the
government - generally has a right to listen to employee
conversation on office phones.
It also doesn't help that national security was involved
and that courts have held that U.S. citizens don't have
constitutional rights overseas.
``It's an uphill battle. It's going to be a tough suit,'' said
constitutional law expert Paul Rothstein of Georgetown
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of all DEA agents,
but the agency itself was not part of the action.
The only DEA agent named as a plaintiff in the suit
is Richard A. Horn, currently with the agency's New
Orleans bureau. Five other incidents involving other
unidentified agents are alleged.
Two years ago Horn filed a lawsuit accusing U.S.
officials of undermining his anti-drug efforts in Burma.
That suit is still pending.
Leighton said subsequent contacts with other DEA
personnel revealed a pattern of similar abuses around
CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said he could not
comment directly on the class action lawsuit, but
defended his agency.
``It is not the CIA's mission, nor is it part of the
operations of the agency, to surveil in any manner
U.S. officials, or other U.S. citizens at home or
abroad,'' Mansfield said.
The only exception would be in counterintelligence
cases, he added, and then only in consultation with
senior Justice Department officials.
DEA spokesman James McGivney said he could not
comment on pending litigation, but noted that as a
U.S. citizen, Horn had the right file his own lawsuit.
John Russell, spokesman for the Justice Department,
which defends the other agencies in lawsuits,
said only, ``we will respond in court.''
In Horn's previous case, Leighton said, the Justice
Department angered DEA agents by claiming they
have no Fourth Amendment constitutional right
against wiretapping when working outside the
Leighton, a former federal prosecutor, said the
lawsuit doesn't address the reasons for the alleged
``My assumption is because they want to know
what DEA is doing, they want to rip off DEA
informants, they want to know DEA contacts
within foreign governments,'' Leighton said.
``And with the Cold War over, these agencies
are looking for a new mission.''
An April 1996 letter to agents by Horn and
Leighton, details the allegation of wiretapping
against the agent in Burma.
Horn's residence ``was the target of a U.S.
Government Agency-sponsored electronic audio
intercept,'' it said.
``Horn had occasion to see a cable containing
his words in quotation marks, that he had spoken
to another DEA agent, set forth exactly as stated...''
The suit also reports alleged wiretaps against
DEA agents in the Dominican Republic from
1987 to 1990, in May 1993 and September 1994
at the Bangkok, Thailand office; at the Guatemala
City office in 1984, 1985 and from 1987 to 1989;
and in an unidentified location in April 1987.
The suit, assigned to U.S. District Judge Harold H.
Greene, names as defendants Secretary of State
Warren Christopher, CIA Director John Deutch
and NSA Director Adm. J.M. McConnell.