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Supreme Court Won’t Stop Suit Vs. Freeh

December 2, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court refused Monday to stop a lawsuit that accused FBI officials of punishing an investigator in another agency for criticizing the Clinton administration’s national security.

Justices declined without comment to consider whether former FBI director Louis Freeh and others were protected from the lawsuit, filed by an Energy Department employee who claimed Chinese spies had penetrated U.S. weapons laboratories.

Notra Trulock III wrote about his concerns in a July 2000 edition of National Review. That same month, FBI agents searched his home computer files and confiscated his computer hard drive.

Trulock’s suit claimed the search violated his First Amendment free-speech rights because it was conducted in retaliation for the magazine article.

Michael Martinez of Washington, one of Freeh’s lawyers, said the case raised issues ``of utmost importance to the thousands of public officials constantly at risk of being sued and possibly being held liable individually for their official actions.″ He said there was no evidence that Freeh or the other officials knew of the magazine article.

Freeh, appointed by former President Clinton, was director of the FBI from 1993-2001. Also sued was Neil Gallagher, former head of the FBI’s national security division, and other officials. They were represented in the appeal by private attorneys, not Bush administration lawyers.

Trulock, who headed the Energy Department’s intelligence office, testified before Congress in 1998 about his concerns about security at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The next year he lost his job. He contended that the White House and federal law enforcement agencies ignored his repeated warnings about espionage.

A federal judge had dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the government officials were entitled to immunity. Part of the suit was reinstated by an appeals court.

Trulock’s attorney, Larry Klayman, said officials kept Trulock’s computer hard drive for two years and that he needed it because it had research about a genetic disorder from which his son suffers, along with personal financial information. Klayman is chairman of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

The case is Freeh v. Trulock, 02-443.

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