Tenet v. Doe

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Tenet v. Doe
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 11, 2005
Decided March 2, 2005
Full case name George J. Tenet, Individually, Porter J. Goss, Director of Central Intelligence and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and United States, Petitioners v. John Doe et ux.
Citations 544 U.S. 1 (more)
Spies cannot sue the United States government to enforce espionage contracts.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
Majority Rehnquist, joined by unanimous
Concurrence Stevens, joined by Ginsburg
Concurrence Scalia

Tenet v. Doe, 544 U.S. 1 (2005), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the court ruled unanimously that spies (those recruited for espionage by the Central Intelligence Agency) cannot sue the CIA or the United States government to enforce an espionage contract. The court ruled that allowing such suits jeopardize the protection of state secrets.

This case pitted Doe, a high-ranking Soviet diplomat, who was recruited by the CIA for espionage against Soviet Union during the Cold War, against the CIA. When Doe was recruited, the CIA promised to resettle him, and his wife, in the United States and ensure financial security for life. The couple settled in Washington state, where Doe found employment. His salary increased to the point that he agreed to discontinue the CIA benefits while he was working. Years later, in 1997, Doe was laid off. Unable to find new employment, due to restrictions by the CIA on the types of jobs he could hold, he then contacted the CIA to reinstate the financial assistance. That request was denied by the CIA, which provided no avenue for Doe to appeal the decision.

Doe brought the suit before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, and the case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court considered this case in light of the 1876 case, Totten v. United States, that prevented a spy from suing the United States to enforce the secret espionage contract. In considering Tenet v. Doe, the Supreme Court upheld the Totten v. United States decision. Therefore, the law continues to deny Doe and other spies the right to sue the United States and the CIA for alleged violations of espionage agreements. The court considered it to be of utmost importance to maintain secrecy of these agreements.

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