ACLU Appeals Dismissal Of Extraordinary Rendition Lawsuit Against Boeing Subsidiary

March 14, 2008 12:00 am

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Victims Of CIA “Torture Flights” Deserve Their Day In Court

SAN JOSE, CA – The American Civil Liberties Union today announced it will appeal a federal court decision to throw out a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan for its role in the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen, filed by the ACLU on behalf of five victims of the rendition program, was dismissed in February after the government intervened, once again misusing the “state secrets” privilege to avoid legal scrutiny of an unlawful program.

“U.S. courts once again accepted flawed arguments from the Bush administration and handed the government the ability to engage in torture, declare it a state secret, and escape legal scrutiny and accountability,” said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU. “The administration’s misuse of the ‘state secrets’ privilege makes it impossible for the courts to exercise judicial oversight and allows the executive branch to disregard the rule of law.”

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of five men who were kidnapped and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were interrogated under torture. The lawsuit charges that Jeppesen knowingly aided the program by providing flight planning and logistical support services for aircraft and crews used by the CIA.

Judge James Ware of the Northern District of California dismissed the lawsuit after the government sought to intervene, contending that litigation of the case would reveal “state secrets” and harm national security. However, the ACLU’s lawsuit cited abundant evidence that was already in the public domain, including a sworn affidavit by a former Jeppesen employee and flight records confirming Jeppesen’s involvement.

“Extraordinary rendition is no secret. It has been well-documented and the whole world knows about it,” said Steven Watt, staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. “It seems the only place we can’t talk about this unlawful program is in American courts. Our clients deserve their day in court, and the government and its cohorts should be held accountable for their egregious violation of the law.”

It has been 50 years since the United States Supreme Court last reviewed the use of the “state secrets” privilege. The privilege has historically been used to exclude discrete pieces of evidence from trials, but in recent years the government has asserted the privilege with increasing regularity in order to block entire lawsuits and justify withholding information from the public about rendition, illegal wiretapping, torture, and other breaches of U.S. and international law.

The Supreme Court recently refused to review the “state secrets” privilege in a lawsuit brought by ACLU client Khaled El-Masri, an innocent German citizen who was kidnapped while on vacation with his family and subjected to detention, interrogation, and torture at a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan and released without ever being charged with a crime.

“The government must not once again be allowed to invoke the mantra of naional security to evade scrutiny of its own shameful conduct and that of the private companies who are complicit in aiding a program that relies on kidnapping and torture,” said Ann Brick, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California.

Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of rendition victims Binyam Mohamed, Abou Elkassim Britel, Ahmed Agiza, Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah and Bisher Al-Rawi.

In addition to Wizner, Watt and Brick, attorneys in the lawsuit are Steven Shapiro and Jameel Jaffer of the national ACLU, Paul Hoffman of the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP and Hope Metcalf of the Yale Law School Lowenstein Clinic. In addition, Margaret L. Satterthwaite of the International Human Rights Clinic of New York University School of Law represents Bashmilah, and Clive Stafford-Smith and Zachary Katznelson represent Mohamed.

Documents related to the lawsuit, including press releases, legal documents and background information, are available online at:

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