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When Fact and Fiction Collide

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October 22, 2007

Last Friday, Rendition, a film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep and a bunch of other Hollywood heavyweights, opened nationwide. The film tells the story of an American family torn apart when the father, Anwar El-Ibrahimi, is kidnapped by the CIA on his way home from a business trip and flown to North Africa, where he is held captive and brutally tortured.

ACLU members and readers of this blog will know that this kind of kidnapping – called “extraordinary rendition” – isn’t a Hollywood fantasy. It’s an all-too-real problem that we know has affected an untold number of victims.

So the sad irony? On the same day a movie that could open millions of Americans’ eyes to this brutal CIA practice debuted in theaters, the government filed a motion in a California court that once again attempts to keep us in the dark about what’s being done in the name of national security. Late Friday, the government intervened in our lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, the company that provided flight planning services to the CIA in the renditions of five men. In its brief, the government claims, as it has many times before, that trying the case, Mohamed v. Jeppesen, would jeopardize state secrets.

The Bush administration has attempted this state secrets argument many, many times. (The Feds used this same argument in ACLU v. NSA, our lawsuit against the NSA’s unlawful warrantless wiretapping program; in El-Masri v. Tenet, our first suit against extraordinary rendition; and in Hepting v. AT&T, the lawsuit against AT&T’s collusion with the NSA to spy on Americans’ phone calls – just to a name few.)

We hope the court will not let the government get away with this naked attempt to weasel out of defending its unlawful programs. Americans might get a taste of what rendition involves by seeing the movie, but until the program is fully exposed, until the government is forced to admit and defend the grisly details, we can’t truly understand and hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable.

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