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State Secrets Markup: One Step Closer to Justice?

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September 18, 2008

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties had a markup today (markup? What’s that?) on a bill very near and dear to our hearts. The State Secrets Protection Act would help to limit the executive branch’s claims of state secrets. The bill passed the subcommittee today by a vote of 6-3. Next step, full committee markup. Cross your fingers that Congress gets this thing done.

Why do you care? Because that’s the same old excuse the Bush administration has been using for the last seven years to block any legal challenges to their messed up policies.

Like what? Well, like the NSA wiretapping program. Or rendition. Or really anything the White House doesn’t want us knowing the whole truth about.

I work in the Washington Legislative Office, and since we only deal with the goofballs on the Hill, I don’t get the joy of interacting with our clients very often. I’ve met a few and they were all very impressive but one client stood out to me — Khaled El Masri. I met him briefly and honestly couldn’t even tell you if we even shook hands but I watched him tell his story to a roomful of reporters at the National Press Club at that I will never forget. The hard-boiled DC press corps — and, indeed the entire room — was spellbound the entire time he spoke. Being kidnapped, tortured and held for months for no reason with no explanation is a harrowing experience to say the least. But to suffer that and receive no justice, not even the hope of justice, because our government has this overly broad privilege at its disposal is, well, unforgivable. I beg you to read about his experience.

The moral of the story is this: we’re not just frustrated by the use of the state secrets privilege, we’re heartbroken. There’s a human cost to this and we’re sick of paying.