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Federal judge seals records alleging FBI's involvement in international spy business

by Bill Conroy Sunday, Oct. 19, 2003 at 8:34 PM

A judge in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., has issued an order sealing previously public court documents in a sensational case that involves a former FBI agent who claims he worked as an international spy for the Bureau.

Former FBI agent Lok Thye Lau alleges he worked for the Bureau as a deep undercover agent overseas in the late 1980s.

Lau contends the work was of such a stressful and horrific nature that it caused him permanent psychological damage, yet he says the FBI has refused to provide him with the necessary security clearances to pursue proper treatment.

The FBI paints a different picture of Lau. The Bureau claims Lau is a liar and a petty thief.

However, Lau contends the bureau doesn't want the real story to come out. He alleges the FBI went out of its way to set him up to fail, leading to him being fired in 2000 in the wake of an alleged shoplifting incident. Since then, Lau has been fighting to prove that he was hung out to dry by the FBI because he now knows too much.

The remarkable revelations made by Lau are supported by court records and reams of Freedom of Information Act documents. However, on Oct. 10, U.S. District Court Judge Garland E. Burrell in Sacramento issued an order to seal documents filed in Lau's case. Those papers detail Lau's FBI career and reveal that he conducted undercover work overseas "against hostile and aggressive foreign powers for years."

Specifically, Judge Burrell ordered that a previously public declaration filed in Lau's case be sealed. The judge also ordered the sealing of pleadings in a friend-of-the-court brief filed on Lau's behalf by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), one of the nation's oldest Hispanic civil-rights groups.

Prior to the judge's ordering the court records sealed, the San Antonio Business Journal had already published a story based on the previously public documents.

The court and FOIA records in Lau's case indicate that the FBI got involved in the spy business at least a decade before 9/11. Although Lau can't discuss the specific nature of his past covert foreign assignment, there are plenty of indications in the public record that point to the likely target country's being China.

This story has major ramifications, both internationally and in the context of the current CIA-related spy scandal plaguing the Bush administration. The sealing of the court records also raises the specter of government censorship in this case.

Lau's case is filed in U.S. District Court in California - Eastern District (2:02-CV-390 USDC California Eastern).

For more on this story, check out the following Web links:

Former federal agent’s spy story opens Pandora’s box for FBI --

http://sanantonio.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2003/10/13/story1.html

Judge orders previously public court records sealed in case of former FBI agent --

http://sanantonio.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2003/10/13/daily12.html

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