ACLU Welcomes Proposed State Secrets Fix, Applauds Senator Kennedy for Introduction of Legislation

January 22, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: 202-675-2312 or media@dcaclu.org

Washington, DC – The Bush Administration may soon have one less tool in its chest to stymie legitimate cases that might expose government misconduct. Today, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), introduced legislation aimed at narrowing the scope of the state secrets privilege – a huge step towards opening the courthouse doors to people who have suffered real and legitimate harm by the government. Several important suits, including one involving the extraordinary rendition of a German citizen, Khaled El-Masri, have been successfully blocked by this administration’s use of the state secrets privilege.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"Senator Kennedy has done a great service by introducing this legislation. For too long, the government has hid behind an overly-broad interpretation of the state secrets privilege to protect itself from the glare of oversight. The Bush Administration has frequently used the privilege as an alternate form of immunity to block entire cases from going forward. We all agree that there need to be precautions when it comes to national security, but courts have been competently managing the balance between the security of classified information and the right to a fair trial in criminal cases for years. Senator Kennedy’s bill recognizes this fact.

"Abuse of the state secrets privilege is not an abstract concept. It has a real and human cost. Khaled El-Masri, Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, Ahmed Agiza and others have all claimed to have been kidnapped and tortured by our government. El-Masri was denied his day in court as a result of the administration’s use of the state secrets privilege. This bill would ensure the other victims will be allowed their attempts at justice.

"Senator Kennedy’s bill allows the court to review government national security claims, thus lowering the wall of the current state secrets privilege to just a hurdle. The current form of the privilege has allowed the administration to successfully hold off investigations into its extraordinary rendition program and its warrantless wiretapping program. The cloak must be lifted and we urge Congress to waste no time in passing Senator Kennedy’s bill."

To read more about the ACLU’s work on NSA spying, go to:
www.aclu.org/nsaspying

To read more about the case of Khaled El-Masri and the ACLU's work on rendition, go to:
www.aclu.org/rendition

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