CIA facing lawsuit for allegedly spying on lawyers and journalists who met with Assange

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A group of journalists and lawyers are suing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its former director Mike Pompeo over allegations that the intelligence agency spied on them when they visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during his stay in Ecuador’s embassy in London.

The lawsuit alleges that the CIA, under Pompeo, violated the privacy rights of those American journalists and lawyers by allegedly spying on them. The plaintiffs include journalists Charles Glass and John Goetz as well as attorneys Margaret Kunstler and Deborah Hrbek, who have represented Assange.

“The United States Constitution shields American citizens from US government overreach even when the activities take place in a foreign embassy in a foreign country,” said Richard Roth, the lead attorney representing the plaintiffs.

The CIA, which declined to comment on the lawsuit, is prohibited from collecting intelligence on US citizens, although several lawmakers have alleged that the agency maintains a secret repository of Americans’ communications data.

Assange has appealed to the High Court in London to block his extradition to the United States to face criminal charges in a legal battle that has dragged on for more than a decade.

Monday’s lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The plea states that, before their visits to Assange, the journalists and lawyers were required to surrender their electronic devices to Undercover Global S.L., a private security company which at the time provided security to the embassy. The lawsuit alleges that the company copied that information and provided it to the CIA which was then headed by Pompeo.

Assange spent seven years in the embassy before being dragged out and jailed in 2019.

Pompeo and Undercover Global S.L. could not immediately be reached for comment.

Julian Assange is wanted by US authorities on 18 charges, including a spying charge, related to WikiLeaks’ release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables. However, his supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimised because he exposed the wrongdoing of the US in its conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In July a former CIA software engineer was convicted for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks from the spy agency.