By Sam Varghese
Former US secretary of state and ex-head of the CIA Mike Pompeo has been formally served with a lawsuit which claims he provided oversight for a criminal conspiracy to violate Fourth Amendment rights of American lawyers and journalists inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Pompeo is one of the defendants in the case, which also names the CIA, security firm UC Global and UC Global director David R. Morales Guillen. They are accused of spying on WikiLeaks publisher and founder Julian Assange and his visitors while he took refuge in the embassy.
A statement from the Assange Defence Committee said the suit was served on the former CIA head as he was posing for photographs at the John Ashbrook Memorial Dinner in Ohio on 29 October.
The plaintiffs, who include renowned civil rights activist and human rights attorney Margaret Ratner Kunstler, attorney Deborah Hrbek and journalists Charles Glass and John Goetz, visited Assange while he was in the embassy.
The suit alleges violations of the plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights and documents how UC Global provided the CIA with information about Assange’s visitors and forced visitors to surrender their electronic devices to enter the embassy – digitally copying and transmitting information on those devices to the CIA.
Assange was a legally protected asylee at the time. More than 100 Americans visited Assange in the embassy.
Plaintiff Margaret Ratner Kunstler blasted the threat such surveillance poses to constitutional liberties.
“If a foreign journalist can be prosecuted for publishing factual documents, then no journalist is safe,” she said. “And apparently Mike Pompeo believes that attorneys representing journalists should not be safe either. These actions are outrageous.”
The suit claimed these actions were authorised and approved by Pompeo.
Assange is currently being held in Belmarsh prison in the UK, pending an appeal against his extradition to the US which was approved by British Home Minister Priti Patel on 17 June.
His legal team has appealed to the British High Court against the order. If that fails, then he can try to approach the UK Supreme Court. In the event that an appeal is refused, he has to be extradited in 28 days.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the plaintiffs for the alleged violation of their rights.
It also seeks the removal of any information held by the CIA which was collected from them during their visits to see Assange and prevention of the release of any this information to a third party.