WASHINGTON -- An unhappy federal judge on Tuesday approved a $3 million settlement with a former narcotics officer who said the CIA spied on him overseas.
The approved settlement caps a 16-year fight for Clovis attorney Brian Leighton and former Drug Enforcement Administration agent Richard A. Horn. It also leaves the judge grumbling over how the government handled the long-secret case.
"It does not appear that any government officials have been held accountable for this loss to the taxpayer," U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth wrote. "This is troubling."
Driving his point home, Lamberth further noted that "there is disturbing evidence in a sealed motion that misconduct occurred in the Inspector General offices at both the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency."
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After noting that the case "has already consumed too much time and too many resources for everyone concerned," however, Lamberth agreed to drop potential disciplinary proceedings against CIA officials. He'll formally do so once he has been assured that the allegations have been referred to congressional intelligence committees and the inspector general offices.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the case or what referrals might be made next.
"The check is supposed to be in the mail pretty quick," Leighton said Tuesday, while adding that "we have mixed emotions."
Leighton acknowledged that he and Horn are relieved that the case is now done. At the same time, he said, "people ought to be penalized for defrauding the court," which is what he and Lamberth both say happened in this case.
A one-time investigator in the San Joaquin Valley, where he first got to know former prosecutor Leighton, Horn was later assigned to the DEA's office in Burma, now called Myanmar. While there, he says he clashed with State Department and CIA officials who wanted to downplay Burma's cooperation in the anti-narcotics campaign.
Forced from his position, Horn charged that his telephone calls to Leighton and others were illegally tapped. When he sued in 1994, the Justice Department made sure the lawsuit was sealed.
The lawsuit stayed sealed until last year, shortly before the Justice Department agreed to a $3 million settlement.