A Virginia federal magistrate judge today denied Random House Inc.'s petition to subpoena the Central Intelligence Agency. The publisher argued that it needed the information to defend against a privacy invasion lawsuit filed by a CIA employee.
The employee, John Peppe, is suing Random House and author Gary Schroen - a veteran CIA officer - for $1 million in Circuit Court for the City of Alexandria. Peppe claims the publisher and Schroen invaded his privacy and put his safety at risk by allowing un-blurred photos of Peppe to appear in Schroen's book on the agency.
The publication, Peppe alleged in his complaint, “caused irreparable damage to the Plaintiff’s career with the CIA’s clandestine activities and potential to become subject to a fatwa.”
Random House had attempted to subpoena the CIA for information on Peppe’s position within the agency over the years and his interactions with agency officials regarding the lawsuit.
According to Random House’s petition (PDF), Peppe had failed to cooperate during discovery, saying that as per a secrecy agreement he signed with the agency, he could not turn over documents and other information requested. Peppe’s attorney, Mark Friedlander of Friedlander, Friedlander & Earman in McLean, Va., could not immediately be reached this afternoon.
When the CIA refused to comply with the subpoena, Random House filed a petition for enforcement in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The CIA, in its opposition brief (PDF), argued that the Alexandria court lacks jurisdiction to require the CIA or any other federal agency to produce documents.
The agency also faulted Random House for failing to follow guidelines laid out in the Administrative Procedure Act for pursuing a subpoena. An agency spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment this afternoon.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan denied Random House’s petition from the bench following a motion hearing today. She did not file a written opinion.
Random is being represented by veteran media lawyer Laura Handman, a partner at Washington’s Davis Wright Tremaine. Handman could not immediately be reached this afternoon.