The CIA is engaging in an unlawful practice – "extraordinary rendition" – abducting foreign nationals for detention and interrogation in secret overseas prisons. "Extraordinary rendition" must be stopped before more victims are targeted. Americans cannot tolerate kidnappings and secret prisons.
El-Masri v. Tenet
Having failed in its efforts to seek redress before domestic courts, on April 9, 2008, the ACLU filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Khaled El-Masri's behalf. Khaled El-Masri, an innocent German citizen who was a victim of the government's unlawful rendition program, seeks public acknowledgement of what was done to him by U.S. officials and an apology from them. In this petition, the ACLU asks that the Commission declare that the "extraordinary rendition" program violates universal human rights guarantees including the right of everyone to be free from forced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture. The petition is pending determination.
Although the story of Mr. El-Masri's mistaken kidnapping and detention at the hands of the CIA is known throughout the world, his lawsuit was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia after the government invoked the so-called "state secrets" privilege. That decision was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case lets that decision stand.
"[The Bush] Administration has invoked the state secrets privilege not to protect national security, but to protect itself from embarrassment and accountability," said ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, who argued El-Masri's case before the Fourth Circuit in November 2006. "Mr. El-Masri's case should be a powerful reminder that when our government abandons the rule of law, innocent victims suffer the consequences."
The history-making lawsuit charges that former CIA Director George Tenet violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when he authorized agents to abduct Mr. El-Masri, beat him, drug him, and transport him to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. The corporations that owned and operated the airplanes used to transport Mr. El-Masri are also named in the case. The CIA continued to hold Mr. El-Masri incommunicado in the notorious "Salt Pit" prison in Afghanistan long after his innocence was known. Five months after his abduction, Mr. El-Masri was deposited at night, without explanation, on a hill in Albania. More >>
Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen
In 2007, the ACLU brought a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc. for their role in the extraordinary rendition of five men, all foreign nationals, who were apprehended and forcibly disappeared to foreign and U.S.-run prisons overseas where they were detained and tortured. The suit charges that Jeppesen knowingly participated in the extraordinary rendition program by providing critical flight planning and logistical support services to aircraft and crews used by the CIA to forcibly disappear these five men to detention and interrogation. Senior Jeppesen officials have openly acknowledged that the company was involved in and profiting from what one of them termed "torture flights." Shortly after the suit was filed, the government intervened to try and block the litigation by inappropriately asserting the "state secrets privilege," claiming further litigation would undermine national security interests, even though much of the evidence needed to try the case was already available to the public. The case was dismissed in February 2008, and the ACLU is appealing the dismissal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. More >>