FAS Note: The following news release was issued by the attorney for the plaintiff, Mark S. Zaid.
April 5, 2007
Mark S. Zaid, Esq.
CIA used security clearance process in order to stifle First Amendment rights
A former senior polygrapher for the Central Intelligence Agency filed a lawsuit (pdf) today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asserting that the Agency intentionally retaliated against him by abusing the security clearance process. The premise for the retaliation was the exercising of his First Amendment rights by publishing a critical book on the Agency's polygraph program. John Sullivan, who during a 31 year career (1968-1999) administered more polygraphs than anyone in the history of the Agency, spent nearly three years battling with the CIA's Publication Review Board to finally clear as unclassified his forthcoming book Gatekeeper: Memoirs of a CIA Polygraph Examiner (Potomac Books, 2007).
While he was awaiting the completion of the lengthy review process, Sullivan experienced retaliation by the CIA when it inappropriately and intentionally revoked his security clearance based on exaggerated, distorted and clearly false allegations. During a 2004 security examination Sullivan was undertaking for employment with a defense contractor, he was directly questioned by the CIA polygrapher about the contents of his book. At one interview session a CIA security officer stated "There is something about your book that you're not telling us, and until you do I can't help you." The CIA official then smirked and accused Sullivan of lying.
Sullivan spent months trying to persuade the CIA that their decision to deny him a security clearance was baseless. As a result of the CIA's actions he lost out on several employment opportunities. Then suddenly, without warning or even having a hearing, the decision was reversed. Given the allegations and the experiences of experts in dealing with the CIA's security clearance process, this was virtually an unprecedented development. The reversal of an unfavorable CIA security clearance decision is extremely rare (likely less than 10%) and most cases take 2-3 years until resolution.
"The CIA's treatment of John Sullivan, a former employee who dared speak out, is indicative of a pattern and practice by the CIA of unlawful and disgraceful retaliation through the abuse of the security clearance process," said Mark S. Zaid, Esq., a Washington, D.C. attorney handling the case and who frequently represents former/current U.S. Intelligence Officers. Zaid added that the timing of the CIA's security actions against Sullivan, especially in light of the questioning he received concerning his book, is very suspicious.
Sullivan's book Gatekeeper, as described by the publisher, offers "a window to the often acrimonious and sometimes alarming internal politics of the CIA: the turf wars over resources, personnel, and mandate; the slow implementation of quality control; the aversion to risk-taking; and the overzealous pursuit of disqualifying information." This was not the first time the CIA's Polygraph Division was upset with Sullivan. He is also the author of Of Spies and Lies: A CIA Lie Detector Remembers Vietnam (University Press of Kansas, 2002).
The CIA also recently demonstrated the disingenuous of its classification process when it refused to review a voluntary submission of Sullivan's lawsuit for classified information because his counsel had not executed a non-disclosure/secrecy agreement that would have mandated prior review. Instead, the Agency decided to risk exposure of classified information, although none is in the Complaint, and threaten to discipline Sullivan for violating his secrecy obligation. In a letter sent to the CIA's Office of General Counsel on April 4, 2007, Mr. Zaid criticized the Agency by noting that this "conduct discredits any professionalism or credibility the Agency otherwise desires to display, whether publicly or privately."


A copy of the Complaint and letter are attached.