In a history-making lawsuit, the ACLU challenged the CIA on behalf of Khaled El-Masri, an entirely innocent victim of rendition who was released without ever being charged.

The lawsuit charged that former CIA Director George Tenet violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when he authorized agents to abduct Mr. El-Masri, beat him, drug him, and transport him to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. The corporations that owned and operated the airplanes used to transport Mr. El-Masri are also named in the case. The CIA continued to hold Mr. El-Masri incommunicado in the notorious "Salt Pit" prison in Afghanistan long after his innocence was known. Five months after his abduction, Mr. El-Masri was deposited at night, without explanation, on a hill in Albania.

A judge dismissed the case in May 2006 after the government intervened, arguing that allowing the case to proceed would jeopardize state secrets, despite the fact that Mr. El-Masri's story was already known throughout the world. The ACLU appealed the dismissal in November 2006. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the lower court decision that denied Mr. El-Masri a hearing in the United States. In October 2007, the United States Supreme Court refused to review Mr. El-Masri's case.

In the most recent development, on April 9, 2008, the ACLU filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of El-Masri. The petition asks the IACHR to declare that the extraordinary rendition program violates the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man; to find the U.S. responsible for violating El-Masri’s rights under that declaration; and to recommend that the U.S. publicly acknowledge and apologize for its role in violating El-Masri’s rights to be free from arbitrary detention and torture.


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