U.S. reporters and attorneys who visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange filed a lawsuit on Monday claiming that the Central Intelligence Agency violated their constitutional rights when they went to visit Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the United Kingdom.
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York against the CIA, its former director Mike Pompeo, Spanish Security agency Undercover Global (UC Global) and its former CEO David Morales Guillen, claims that the reporters and lawyers were "subjected to unconstitutional searches and seizures during their visits to Assange."
The plaintiffs claim that while they visited Assange at the Embassy, employees of UC Global copied information from their electronic devices and turned it over to the CIA, which was under the direction of Pompeo at the time.
Assange is fighting extradition to the United States where he is facing charges under the Espionage Act for publishing classified information on WikiLeaks.
"If a foreign journalist can be prosecuted for publishing factual documents, then no journalist is safe," said human rights attorney and plaintiff Margaret Ratner Kunstler. "And apparently Mike Pompeo believes that attorneys representing journalists should not be safe either. These actions are outrageous."
"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. Visitors who are lawyers, journalists and doctors frequently carry confidential information in their devices," Richard Roth, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said. "They had a reasonable expectation that the security guards at the Ecuadorian embassy in London would not be US government spies charged with delivering copies of their electronics to the CIA."