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Extraordinary Abuse

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February 5, 2008

It’s no secret that the United States government has participated in extraordinary rendition, the unlawful transfer of prisoners in U.S. custody to countries where we know torture and abusive interrogation techniques take place. And it’s no secret that the government has had help from private entities like Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, who knew exactly what they were doing when they provided support services for the CIA’s “torture flights.” In fact, it seems like the only secret left is what justification there could possibly be for the government to claim the “state secrets” privilege in an attempt to block the ACLU’s lawsuit against Jeppesen for its role in the program. ACLU attorneys Ben Wizner and Steven Watt are in federal court in San Jose at 1:00 p.m. PST today opposing the government’s state secret claim and arguing for the continuation of that case.

It’s been 50 years since the Supreme Court last reviewed the state secrets privilege, and they recently rejected a chance to do so in the case of rendition victim Khaled El-Masri. But the government has been misusing the claim more and more, to avoid legal scrutiny for everything from torture to wiretapping. With Congress considering pending legislation to curb the abuse of the privilege, this problem is finally getting the attention it’s due, not only in the legislature but in media outlets like Congressional Quarterly, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Today the privilege, once intended to block singular pieces of evidence from disclosure, but now misused to block entire cases, will get some much-needed judicial review. Let’s hope our case lives to see another day so that five victims of extraordinary rendition will get their day in court too.

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