The Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Monday from a former covert CIA officer who accused the agency of race discrimination.
Jeffrey Sterling, who is black, had sued CIA director Porter Goss and 10 employees. A judge dismissed the case on grounds that the litigation would require the disclosure of highly classified information.
Justices refused without comment to consider reinstating Sterling’s lawsuit.
In November, the court refused to take up a similar case involving former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who claimed she was fired for reporting wrongdoing. The Justice Department claimed then too that allowing the lawsuit to go forward would threaten “state secrets,” or national security.
Sterling’s lawyer, George Doumar, said in the appeal that the claim “is now commonly involved against federal employees in order to defeat allegations of executive branch wrongdoing.” He said there is proof in declassified files that Sterling experienced discrimination.
Sterling worked in the Near East and South Asia division of the CIA from 1993 to 2001. He said that a supervisor told him he was not eligible for certain positions because of his skin color.
The government did not file any arguments with the Supreme Court in Sterling’s case.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld the dismissal of his lawsuit last year, saying that “there is no way for Sterling to prove employment discrimination without exposing at least some classified details of the covert employment that gives context to his claim.”
Sterling has said that he was assigned to recruit Iranians as spies and that he was fired after turning down a job assignment.
The case is Sterling v. Goss, 05-571.