John and Jane Doe (plaintiffs) were foreign nationals who agreed to become spies for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (defendant). In return, the CIA promised to protect and provide for the Does for life. After the Does’ espionage services ended, they moved to the United States, and the U.S. government provided them a stipend. When John got a good-paying job, he and the government ultimately agreed that the stipend would end while John was working. After John was laid off from that job, he sought financial assistance from the CIA, but the request was denied. The Does sued the United States government (defendant), seeking to enforce the promise of a lifetime of financial assistance. The government filed a motion to dismiss based on Totten v. United States, 92 U.S. 105 (1876), which prohibited lawsuits against the government to enforce covert spy agreements. The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington denied the government’s motion to dismiss, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.