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Posted at 8:40 PM ET, 08/19/2010

Fired DIA officer challenges security-clearance removal

By Jeff Stein

A decorated former Defense Intelligence Agency officer, who served at one time as an aide to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Colin Powell, continued his court fight this week to demolish the government’s right to revoke security clearances and fire employees without explanation.

John C. Dullahan is an Irish immigrant who joined the U.S. Army in 1968, served in Vietnam, became an American citizen and eventually attained the rank of lieutenant colonel before retiring from the military and joining the DIA. He lost his security clearance in 2009 after he ran afoul of polygraph examiners.

The examiners accused Dullahan, whose job as Powell’s political-military adviser for Eastern Europe required him to be in contact with counterparts from former communist countries, of having been under the control of Soviet intelligence.

Dullahan denied the accusation and challenged the government to back up its claims with evidence, to no avail.

“The polygraph examiner accused Dullahan of meeting ‘Soviet handlers’ when he had visited - 20 years earlier - East Germany in the early 1980s, during his U.N. assignment in Syria, and on his numerous official trips to Europe while on the Joint Staff, including trips with General Powell,” said Dullahan’s complaint, first filed in January.

On Wednesday, his Washington attorney, Mark S. Zaid, a specialist in representing intelligence personnel, responded to the DIA’s motion in federal court to dismiss the case.

“The fundamental questions, among others presented in this lawsuit…,” his attorney argued, “are whether the Executive Branch can lawfully act to strip an American citizen of his security clearance or employment without affording that individual any semblance of due process, and to what extent those separate actions can be reviewed by the Judicial Branch.”

Dullahan, like others before him, faces an uphill fight.

Although the Supreme Court has decided that polygraph results are too unreliable to be used in court, it has also ruled that “no one has a ‘right’ to a security clearance.” It also has ruled that the Merit Systems Protection Board has no authority to review the revocation of a security clearance.

Finding out how officials came to a decision to revoke a clearance, moreover, is still currently beyond the plaintiff’s reach.

Dullahan, who was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal by Powell, is challenging that.

"The government should not be permitted to strip a U.S. citizen who has honorably served his country for four decades of his ability to pursue his profession without due process," Zaid said in an e-mail.

By Jeff Stein  | August 19, 2010; 8:40 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Lawandcourts  | Tags:  Colin Powell, John C. Dullahan, Mark S. Zaid  
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