LAS VEGAS (AP) - A Nevada man who claims his life is in danger
because his identity was compromised after he went under cover to
help the FBI sniff out terrorists has filed a federal lawsuit in Washington seeking $54 million from the government.
"I was disclosed," said Anthony Martin, 63, who described himself as a retired bank robber and convicted felon.
Martin said he entered the federal witness protection program in February 1992 after cooperating with authorities in New York City,
but dropped out after four months. Still, he thought his identity would remain protected by the government.
"I've infiltrated a lot of organizations," Martin said in a series of telephone interviews with The Associated Press. "We're talking terrorists."
Martin said he felt betrayed that authorities failed to keep a pledge he said he received when he volunteered to work undercover for the FBI after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He said he was installed as a taxi driver in Las Vegas, and provided information that led to arrests and convictions of at least four "people entering the country illegally" on charges including fabricating false passports.
Later, Martin said he was stunned when a Las Vegas police officer checked a computer database as he was filing a complaint in 2004 and addressed him as Lee McKnight, the name he gave up when he entered the witness protection program.
"I got a promise that my old name would never be disclosed, and it should not have," Martin said. "They intentionally put me in danger."
"Plaintiff was exposed. ... with dual identities, a criminal record and felony status ... thus jeopardizing his life," Martin said in the 10-page lawsuit he filed Jan. 29 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He said he was serving as his own lawyer.
Martin said he filed the civil lawsuit in Washington because officials there oversaw his handling. He claims breach of contract, breach of oral agreement and violations of constitutional free speech, equal protection and the right against cruel and unusual punishment.
The lawsuit seeks $6 million in damages from each of nine defendants: the FBI and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the U.S. Marshals Service and witness protection program chief Thomas Wight, the federal Department of Homeland Security and its former chief, Michael Chertoff, and the Justice Department and former attorneys general Michael Mukasey and Alberto Gonzales.
The Justice Department would represent the defendants, department spokesman Charles Miller said Friday. He declined other comment on the case, saying his department had not received a copy of the lawsuit.
Officials with the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service offices in Las Vegas also declined comment.
With his lawsuit, Martin made public a copy of a Sept. 30, 2008, letter from Wight stating that Martin "voluntarily terminated" from witness protection in July 1992, and referring to a signed agreement that "very clearly states that government protected witnesses will not act as informants."
"While you are no longer a witness in good standing," the letter says, "it appears that for humanitarian reasons this office provided you with a new name birth certificate" and a certificate of discharge from active military duty.
Martin said he quit the witness protection program in Beaumont, Texas, because it didn't pay him enough, and moved back to New York City.
Martin said he had served 18 years in prisons in New York, Nevada, Minnesota and Wisconsin for crimes including armed robbery and bank robbery, and also lived in Phoenix and Connecticut. Details of Martin's background remain patchy and he declined to offer more specifics.
These days, he said, he collects disability for physical ailments and mental stress, and helps train young fighters at a local gym.
Martin claimed in his lawsuit that he could "show a connection" between his case and the dismissal of nine U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration in 2006. He also referred to the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
In interviews, he refused to provide specifics.
"I want a fair hearing in court to present my side," he said. "Let them present their side. Not in the newspaper."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney's then-chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted of perjury and obstructing
justice lying to the FBI about his role in leaking Plame's name and
CIA affiliation to a reporter. Former President Bush commuted Libby's 2½-year sentence, sparing him from serving prison time.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)