Updated 11:40 a.m.
On August 2, an article called "The Primacy of the Rule of Law" was posted on The Huffington Post. The problem, according to a defamation lawsuit (PDF) filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is that the author listed, Juan Carlos Noriega, claims he had nothing to do with the piece.
Noriega, a lawyer based in Panama, is suing the media company for $3 million in damages, a full retraction, and an investigation into who created an account on The Huffington Post's website under his name.
A representative of The Huffington Post also could not immediately be reached for comment. Noriega's lawyer, Patton Boggs partner Benjamin Chew, said that the company never made any effort to contact Noriega before publishing the article along with his photo and a biographical description.
"Its unconscionable that The Huffington Post would not have done a modicum of due diligence before putting out an article on a subject like this, or any subject, without verifying the author," Chew said.
Noriega, according to the complaint, is a name partner at Panama-based Arias, Abrego, Lopez & Noriega and has a practice specializing in corporate law and international business. He denied ever registering an account with The Huffington Post's website.
The August article at issue had to do with the arrest of Dr. Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who reportedly helped U.S. officials track down Osama Bin Laden through a fake vaccination program. In the article, the author – listed as Noriega – said that U.S. demands at the time for Afridi's release showed a disregard for Pakistan's authority.
But Noriega claims in his complaint that he never wrote any such article, and has never written anything for The Huffington Post. In a letter dated September 13 included as an exhibit with the complaint, Chew asked the site's editor to take down the article, saying Noriega was the victim of identity theft. Chew said today that he never received a response.
The Huffington Post piece was highly critical of how U.S. officials had responded to Afridi's arrest and the Central Intelligence Agency's role in the fake vaccination program. Noriega said in his complaint that he did not hold the views expressed in the article.
By having the article up under his name, Noriega said "serious damage" had been done to his reputation. He alleged that the article jeopardized his status with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and his ability to secure visas to work in the United States. He claimed the whole situation had caused him to "suffer loss of personal reputation, embarrassment, personal humiliation, general emotional distress, and specifically, stress relating to possible negative ramifications on his U.S. travel and work visas."
The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle.