STATE SECRETS DOCTRINE BARS TITLE VII SUIT

The Fourth Circuit rules today, August 3, that the state secrets doctrine bars a racial discrimination suit by a CIA agent against the director and ten unnamed employees of the agency.  The case is Sterling v. Tenet .

Sterling contended that he was subjected to discriminatory treatment, and eventually retaliation for filing an EEO complaint.  The suit is dismissed not because of a pleading defect, or because Sterling failed to state a claim; it is dismissed because Sterling would necessarily have to adduce state secret evidence in order to prove his case, among other things by disclosing “the nature and location of his employment and the employment of those similarly situated.”  Since even the names of Sterling’s coworkers are classified, he isn’t allowed to present such evidence, and the suit is therefore dismissed.

The decision is handed down by a unanimous panel of the court.  Sterling can, of course, move for an en banc rehearing, or appeal on to Washington.  But the US Supreme Court reaffirmed the state secrets doctrine earlier this year, so he will probably be hard pressed to get relief.