FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2006
Widely Publicized CIA Kidnapping of German Citizen is No "State Secret," ACLU Charges, Fights U.S. Government's Attempt to Dismiss Case
ALEXANDRIA, VA -- The American Civil Liberties Union argued its case on the illegal abduction and detention of Khaled El-Masri today before a federal court in Alexandria. The ACLU said El-Masri is an innocent German citizen who was victimized by the CIA's policy of "extraordinary rendition." In today's hearing the CIA argued that the case must be dismissed because of the danger that 'state secrets' may be exposed.
"By the CIA's reasoning, the entire world can discuss this case, newspapers can write about it, foreign governments can investigate it, but the court has no role," said Ben Wizner, the ACLU staff attorney who presented arguments this morning. "The idea that the court must close its eyes and ears to common sense, and protect the nation from disclosure of information that the whole world already knows, is simply absurd."
The landmark lawsuit charges that former CIA Director George Tenet violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when he authorized agents to abduct El-Masri, beat him, drug him and transport him to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. The corporations that owned and operated the airplanes are also named in the case. The CIA continued to hold El-Masri incommunicado in the notorious "Salt Pit" prison in Afghanistan long after his innocence was known. Five months after his abduction El-Masri was deposited at night, without explanation on a hill in Albania, never having been charged with a crime.
According to the ACLU the government has been invoking the state secrets argument with more regularity in an effort to avoid the exposure of illegal and immoral practices, including, most recently, in an effort to dismiss suits challenging illegal NSA wiretapping. Yet in this case, the ACLU argues that all the information is already public.
Recently, a special committee of the European Parliament issued an interim report concluding that the CIA has on several occasions illegally kidnapped and detained individuals in European countries. The report also found that the CIA detained and then secretly used airlines to transfer persons to countries like Egypt and Afghanistan, which routinely use torture during interrogations.
Members of the European investigative committee have been in the United States for several days to meet with the ACLU and Members of Congress. A parliamentary inquiry into El-Masri's kidnapping is also currently ongoing in Germany.
The ACLU has also called on a United Nations human rights investigative body, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, to conduct a full investigation into the United States' "extraordinary rendition" program.
Background and briefs on the case are online at www.aclu.org/rendition