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Today’s Decision

The Court issued one opinion today: No. 03-1395, Tenet v. Doe, unanimously reversed, per the Chief Justice. (The Opinion states that “CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.” As far as I know, this was not literally true, as the Chief Justice presumably did not sit today. Tom and/or Lyle will be able to confirm when they return from the Ten Commandmants oral arguments.)

Justice Stevens filed a one-paragraph concurrence joined by Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Scalia also filed a concurrence in order to respond to Justice Stevens.

UPDATE — Lyle Denniston:
Justice Stevens announced the Court’s ruling in the Chief Justice’s absence.
The unanimous decision held that former spies for the U.S. government may not sue in federal court to force the government to live up to its bargain with them. The Court said that, if success in such a lawsuit depends upon the existence of a secret espionage relationship with the government, such a case is barred by a doctrine laid down by the Court in 1875 in Totten v. U.S., a case dealing with a Civil War spy for President Abraham Lincoln. The Court said emphatically that it would not “retreat from Totten‘s…holding that lawsuits premised on alleged espionage agreements are altogether forbidden.”

The government took the case to the Supreme Court, on behalf of former Central Intelligence Agency director George J. Tenet. The dispute involved a couple whose identity is protected under the pseudonyms John and Jane Doe. Mr. Doe served as a spy against the Soviet regime, somewhere in an Eastern bloc country. He and his wife later sued, claiming that the U.S. had failed to fulfill a promise to them that it would provide financially for them for the rest of their lives.