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Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish?

The Supreme Court has just heard a case, Tenet vs Doe, over promises allegedly made to spies:

Two former Soviet-bloc diplomats recruited to spy for the CIA during the Cold War say the agency later reneged on promises to compensate them for the dangerous missions they performed.  The husband and wife team are bringing this case under the assumed names of John and Jane Doe out of fear they could be assassinated if their identities are exposed.

Note that the claim here is that the agency reneged on a deal, not that John and Jane were not spies. And I suppose it may even be that there’s a real misunderstanding here. But how much could they possibly be asking for? The Soviets always managed to hire Americans on the cheap. So maybe John and Jane want $10m. (Which would be the highest agent payout I’m aware of. Ames, the Walkers, and others went for about $2-3m.) Why not just pay them? The bad blood that CIA officers will be dealing with over the next 30 years for this is huge. Spy agencies have to be seen as reliable by those who sell them secrets.

(From Voice of America News. The CNN story has quotes from the Justices. Or see the BBC story. )

[Update: The Appendix to the Petition for Certiori (PDF) states that they were looking for $27,000 a year, after John got laid off. Although, if I’m reading this right, the current case is not a contract enforcement case, but a suit trying to establish that they can sue the government, somewhere, for redress.]

[Update 2: It occurs to me that not only is John Doe not the fellow’s real name, but that he was furnished with a new identity, so the name being hidden isn’t his real name either…Mmmm, wheels within wheels.]

One comment on "Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish?"

  • Why not just pay them?

    Emergent Chaos: Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish? Adam asks why doesn’t CIA just pay them? While the case in questions is only covering whether or not the alleged spies have the right to so for contract violation, one plausible reason that the CIA…

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