March 4, 2003

Mark S. Zaid, Esq.
Krieger & Zaid, PLLC
(202) 223-9050 (w)
(202) 498-0011 (cell)


CIA Classification Decisions Intended Primarily
To Help Defeat Discrimination Lawsuit

Washington D.C. -- The first African-American case officer to sue the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA") for racial discrimination today filed a new lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia over the CIA's decision to censor his memoirs. Jeffrey Sterling, an attorney employed by the CIA from 1993-2001, is the second individual affiliated with the CIA to sue the Agency for unlawful censorship in the past month. Sterling's lawsuit asserts the CIA is abusing the classification system in order to further its litigation strategy to defeat his discrimination lawsuit.

"The CIA's actions to arbitrarily invoke classification concerns in order to ensure it escapes liability in another lawsuit is a deplorable example of censorship at its worst," said Mark S. Zaid, Managing Partner of the Washington, D.C. law firm of Krieger & Zaid, PLLC, who represents Sterling in both lawsuits. Zaid added that the CIA, on orders of its General Counsel's Office, has inconsistently asserted classification decisions involving Sterling's memoirs and has illegally re-classified information.

Individuals who once had access to classified information are required to first submit their writings to the government for prepublication review. Although individuals affiliated with the Intelligence Community do not surrender their First Amendment rights, the protection extends only to unclassified information. Federal agencies, such as the CIA, are supposed to cooperate with the individual to remove or modify any potential classified information so the material can still be published in a timely manner. Information cannot be classified simply because it might prove embarrassing to or reveal illegal activities of the government.

Though it was nearly twenty years since the last prepublication legal challenge was filed concerning allegedly classified information, three such lawsuits - all naming the CIA as a defendant - have now been filed in less than two years. Danny Stillman, a former employee at Los Alamos National Laboratory, filed suit in June 2001 regarding the government's refusal to allow him to publish his 500 page memoirs entitled Inside China's Nuclear Weapons Program. Just last month, Wendy Lee (a pseudonym), a former CIA independent contractor, challenged the CIA's refusal to allow her to publish her memoirs. Both Stillman and Lee are also represented by Mr. Zaid, who was not permitted to review either of their manuscripts despite his possessing a valid SECRET clearance. Mr. Zaid was, however, permitted to review the classified version of Sterling's memoirs.

Sterling's racial discrimination lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on August 28, 2001. It asserts, among other things, that Sterling was told he was "too big and black" to receive certain CIA assignments. Sterling's lawsuit was not publicly known until the New York Times revealed its existence on March 2, 2002. It remains pending.

Mr. Zaid is the Managing Partner of the Washington, D.C. law firm of Krieger & Zaid, PLLC. The firm routinely represents individuals employed within the United States Intelligence Community. Mr. Zaid specializes in national security, Freedom of Information and First and Fifth Amendment litigation. His clients have included Arianna Huffington, Mohamed Al Fayed, Notra Trulock, Congressman Lane Evans, American Lawyer Media and families of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103. He is also the Executive Director of The James Madison Project, a non-profit organization that seeks to reduce secrecy and promote government accountability (, and the co-editor of "Litigation Under the Federal Open Government Laws 2002".


Sterling's Complaint

Wendy Lee's Complaint