Senator Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) State Secrets Protection Act finally had its moment in the sun today – the hearing has been postponed almost every week since February. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill 11 to 8, and now it’s on its way to the floor for debate. Mandy Simon, Senior Legislative Communications Associate for our Washington, D.C., office, blogged about the bill and the use of the state secrets privilege in OpenLeft today. The privilege was rejected most recently in an ACLU of Illinois case involving the terrorism watch list. Mandy writes:
The case, Rahman v. Chertoff, challenged the repeated, lengthy and abusive stops of Americans at the border. The judge ruled against the Department of Homeland Security and FBI, ordering that both agencies reveal whether the names of those who were repeatedly stopped at the border are included in the Terrorist Screening Database. In an exciting turn, the judge also rejected the administration’s state secrets claim. In the decision, Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier wrote that “courts may not uncritically accept the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege.
We have an excellent backgrounder on the State Secrets privilege, and you can learn more about the Rahman case on the ACLU of Illinois’ website. Urge your senators to support S. 2533. Without it, the courthouse doors will continue to be closed to litigation against the government’s worst abuses of power.