An Ethiopian dissident going by the name of Kidane has been trying to sue the Ethiopian government ever since they tricked him into downloading a spyware program. The hack took place while he was in the United States, but a DC court of appeals agreed to dismiss the suit this week.

Kidane was born in Ethiopia but has since become an American citizen. Back near the end of 2012 he opened a seemingly benign email from an acquaintance that happened to contain an attachment. It turns out that the Ethiopian government had actually sent or forwarded the email. The attachment contained the FinSpy program; spyware that is sold exclusively to government agencies by controversial software company FinFisher.

Normally foreign governments are immune from lawsuits like this, but Kidane and his lawyers applied a special exception called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Unfortunately for Kidane, the court denied this request on the grounds that the hack didn't take place entirely in the US. Since the email was sent from Ethiopia, the FSIA exception does not apply.

Kidane's team and privacy advocates around the country are worried about a dangerous precedent being set in this case. Foreign governments can hack US citizens without worrying about potential lawsuits. The Electronic Frontier Foundation saw this case as the best chance to challenge government spyware use, but was disappointed by the ruling.