Press Release

First Hearing in the Lawsuit Against Alleged CIA Spying On Assange Visitors

November 16, 2023 — A U.S. court considered a lawsuit against the CIA and former CIA director Mike Pompeo for their alleged role in spying on American attorneys and journalists who visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

In August 2022, four Americans — lawyers Margaret Ratner Kunstler and Deborah Hrbek, journalist John Goetz and Charles Glass sued the CIA and Pompeo. The lawsuit they brought alleges that as visitors Glass, Goetz, Hrbek, and Kunstler were required to “surrender” their electronic devices to employees of a Spanish company called UC Global, which was contracted to provide security for the Ecuador embassy. Furthermore, UC Global “copied the information stored on the devices” and shared the information with the CIA. The agency even had access to live video and audio feeds from cameras in the embassy.

Now, Judge John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York refused to accept Assistant U.S. Attorney Jean-David Barnea position who neither confirmed nor denied that the CIA had targeted Americans without obtaining a warrant. He also invited attorneys for the Americans to update the lawsuit so that claims of privacy violations explicitly dealt with the government’s lack of a warrant.

In his report about the hearing, journalist Kevin Gosztola notes that “the government effectively asserted in a U.S. courtroom that Americans cease to have constitutional privacy protections from U.S. government intrusion when they travel abroad.”