Government Continues To Misuse State Secrets Privilege In Attempt To Have Case Against Boeing Subsidiary Thrown Out
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SAN FRANCISCO – The American Civil Liberties Union was in federal appeals court in San Francisco today to argue that a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. for its role in the Bush administration's unlawful extraordinary rendition program should go forward. The government has repeatedly misused the state secrets privilege in an attempt to have the case thrown out.
"To this day, not a single victim of the Bush administration's torture policies has had his day in court. Across the board, the administration is taking positions that deny torture victims any chance for justice," said ACLU staff attorney Ben Wizner. "It is no longer credible to claim that extraordinary rendition is a state secret. This case should be allowed to move forward without further delay."
The ACLU and the ACLU of Northern California brought the lawsuit in May 2007 on behalf of five men who the CIA kidnapped, forcibly disappeared and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas, where they were interrogated under torture. The lawsuit charges that Jeppesen knowingly participated in the forcible disappearance and torture of the men by providing critical flight planning and logistical support services to the aircraft and crews used by the CIA to carry out their extraordinary rendition.
The Bush administration intervened in the case, improperly asserting the state secrets privilege to have the lawsuit thrown out, but in April a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the government must invoke the state secrets privilege with respect to specific evidence – not over an entire lawsuit. The government appealed that ruling, and today an en banc panel of 11 judges heard arguments in that appeal.
"The Obama administration's policy of misusing the state secrets privilege to shelter Bush administration officials from accountability for torture threatens the fundamental principle of separation of powers," said Steven Watt, staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. "No court has yet fulfilled its critical constitutional function of ruling on the legality of the Bush administration's torture policies. The Ninth Circuit should reject this attempt to avoid judicial scrutiny and affirm the principle that victims of torture are entitled to a remedy."
In addition to Wizner and Watt, attorneys in the lawsuit are Steven R. Shapiro and Jameel Jaffer of the national ACLU, Julia Harumi Mass of the ACLU of Northern California, Paul Hoffman of the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP and Hope Metcalf of the Yale Law School Lowenstein Clinic. In addition, Margaret L. Satterthwaite and Amna Akbar of the International Human Rights Clinic of New York University School of Law and Clive Stafford-Smith and Zachary Katznelson represent plaintiffs in this case.
More information about the ACLU's lawsuit, Mohamed, et al. v. Jeppesen, is available online at: www.aclu.org/jeppesen