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HOW IT STARTED
The American Civil Liberties Union has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court's dismissal of the case of Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator who was fired in retaliation for reporting security breaches and possible espionage within the Bureau. Lower courts dismissed the case when former Attorney General John Ashcroft invoked the rarely used "state secrets" privilege.
The Court created the so-called state secrets privilege more than 50 years ago but has not considered it since. The need for clarification of the doctrine is acute, the ACLU said, because the government is increasingly using the privilege to cover up its own wrongdoing and to keep legitimate cases out of court.
"Edmonds' case is not an isolated incident," said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson. "The federal government is routinely retaliating against government employees who uncover weaknesses in our ability to prevent terrorist attacks or protect public safety."
The states secrets privilege, Beeson said, "should be used a shield for sensitive evidence, not a sword the government can use at will to cut off argument in a case before the evidence can be presented. We are urging the Supreme Court, which has not directly addressed this issue in 50 years, to rein in the government's misuse of this privilege."
The ACLU is also asking the Supreme Court to reverse the D.C. appeals court's decision to exclude the press and public from the court hearing of Edmonds' case in April. The appeals court closed the hearing at the eleventh hour without any specific findings that secrecy was necessary. Learn more >>
> ACLU Says National Security Whistleblower Protections Lacking
> FBI RetaliatedAgainst National Security Whistleblower
> Supreme Court Denies Review in FBI Whistleblower Case
> High Court Urged to Review Whistleblower Case
> ACLU Sues Chertoff OverFree Speech Rights
> Secrecy Used to Avoid Accountability
> ACLU Files Motion to OpenHearing > Groups Demand toEnd Government Silencing > FBI Translator Firedfor Reporting Misconduct > Government Abuses "StatesSecrets Privilege"
> Letter to Attorney General, from Senators Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley
>Daniel Ellsberg's Truth-Telling Project
> POGO vs. Ashcroft, the retroactive classification suit
> Just a Citizen, Sibel Edmonds' web site about her case
> IG Unclassified Summary > Coalition of 9/11 Families
> ACLU Supreme Court cert petition (Aug. 3, 2005)
> Appendix for the Supreme Court cert petition (Aug. 4, 2005)
> Emergency Motion to Open Oral Argument in Edmonds v. Department of Justice (April 20,2005)
> Inspector General's summary (off-site link)
> ACLU brief (Jan. 12, 2005)
> ACLU legal complaint (April 21, 2004)