"State Secrets" Win Protects Nevada Defense Contractor Connected to Governor, Air Force

| Thu Aug. 30, 2007 11:13 AM EDT

Here's the background you need for this story. The FBI is reportedly investigating Nevada governor Jim Gibbons, a former Congressman and House Intelligence committee member, for possible corruption. The crux of the corruption probe centers on alleged evidence that Gibbons accepted trips, gifts and cash from a Nevada defense contractor, Warren Trepp, of eTreppid, in exchange for throwing eTreppid defense and intelligence contracts - many of them apparently from the black budget. Trepp, in turn, has enlisted the help of the FBI, in going after a former employee, Dennis Montgomery, who provided his firm key technology and took it with him when he left the company. There's been lots of spooky stuff about the legal process playing out between Montgomery and Trepp, with an Air Force special investigator apparently having enlisted the FBI to help Trepp go after Montgomery, the sealing of documents, and other mysteries suggesting the Air Force really really doesn't want a court process to uncover just what it hired eTreppid to do.

Got that?

Ok. Today, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports:

In a ruling that could make it difficult for former eTreppid software designer Dennis Montgomery to argue his lawsuit against the company, a federal judge Wednesday granted a Department of Defense request for a protective order to ensure no material involving national security is released.
All sides in the lawsuit involving eTreppid Technologies, the Reno company Gov. Jim Gibbons is accused of helping obtain defense contracts in exchange for gifts and trips, are prohibited from sharing certain information that is subject to the state secrets privilege, U.S. District Judge Philip Pro said in his order.
The information also cannot be used as evidence at trial, Pro said. Disclosure of certain materials "could be expected to cause serious, and (in) some cases exceptionally grave damage to national security," he said.
Pro made a number of exceptions. He said the two sides can discuss the "Big Safari" contract between eTreppid and the Air Force, "including but not limited to the fact that the Big Safari contract required eTreppid to perform data analysis," and involved "image identification technology."

Here's the court order (.pdf).

Nevada is home to a lot of U.S. Air Force real estate, among it Nellis Air Force base and reputed Area 51.