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CIA Accused of Unlawful Surveillance: US Judge Rules Assange Visitors’ Lawsuit Can Proceed

A United States federal judge has given the green light for four nationals to continue their legal action against the Central Intelligence Agency in court. The individuals assert that their electronic devices were unlawfully searched by the agency’s representatives during their visits to Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

On Tuesday, US District Court Judge John Koeltl, who is based in Manhattan, made a ruling in a case involving four individuals: attorneys Margaret Ratner Kunstler and Deborah Hrbek, as well as journalists John Goetz and Charles Glass, who report on national security issues. The case was originally filed in August 2022, but the CIA attempted to have it dismissed.

The legal case revolves around activities that took place at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2017 and 2018, where Assange met with the four individuals. It is alleged that Undercover Global, a Spanish security firm hired by the embassy, was infiltrated by US intelligence agents who installed hidden cameras and microphones to monitor Assange’s activities. Additionally, the firm is said to have shared personal information about Assange’s visitors with the CIA, as revealed in press reports and court documents.

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The legal grievance was lodged against Undercover Global, its CEO David Morales Guillen, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and its former director Mike Pompeo. Pompeo had oppenly denounced WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and exhibited hostility towards Assange. The plaintiffs alege that this stance prompted the agency’s surveillance through a third-party entity.

Koeltl partially granted the CIA’s request to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiffs could not hold Pompeo personally accountable for alleged violations of their constitutional protection from unreasonable seach and seizure. He also struck down their complaints about hidden cameras, but allowed the claims against the agency regarding personal devices to proceed.

According to US media reports, Pompeo’s CIA was prepared to resort to drastic measures in targeting Assange. He was hiding at the embassy over fears of being arrested and extradited to the US. An investigation by Yahoo News based on multiple interviews with agency officials claimed in 2021 that Pompeo had considered various scenarios for getting Assange, including possible kidnapping or assassination.

Ecuador allowed British law enforcement to arrest Assange in 2019, after a new government in Quito revoked his asylum. He has since been detained at a top-security prison. London’s High Court is set to review his final legal bid to stop extradition to the US in February, WikiLeaks announced on Tuesday.

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