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URGENT ACTION: Tell Justice Department Not to Coverup Torture With "State Secrets" Claim
On Monday the new U.S. Justice Department urged a federal appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in the extraordinary rendition program. Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of five men who were kidnapped and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were tortured. The Bush administration asserted the "state secrets" privilege, claiming the case would undermine national security. The Obama administration has now done the same.
Last Wednesday, Britain's High Court of Justice ruled evidence in the U.K. civil case of Binyam Mohamed, one of the plaintiffs in the Jeppesen case, must remain secret because of U.S. threats to cut off intelligence sharing. On Saturday Britain's Telegraph reported that "Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, 'is very far down the list of things they did'." On Sunday Britain's Daily Mail reported that Mohamed "was identified as a terrorist after confessing he had visited a 'joke' website on how to build a nuclear weapon. ... [He] admitted to having read the 'instructions' after allegedly being beaten, hung up by his wrists for a week and having a gun held to his head in a Pakistani jail."
Please phone and Email Attorney General Eric Holder right now to ask him not to coverup torture: 202-514-2001 AskDOJ@usdoj.gov
Last year, Senators Edward Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, and Arlen Specter, introduced the State Secrets Protection Act, which would severely limit the use of the "state secrets" claim. Please call and ask them to reintroduce this bill right away:
Kennedy, 202-224-4543; Leahy, 202-224-4242; Specter, 202-224-4254.
In the House, Congress members Nadler, Petri, Conyers, Delahunt, and Lofgren have just reintroduced the State Secrets Protection Act. Ask your Congress member to sign on: 202-224-3121.
Senator Russ Feingold has requested a classified briefing to explain the "state secrets" claim. Encourage him to pursue the matter and to encourage the Attorney General to appoint a Special Prosecutor: Feingold, (202) 224-5323.
CONTACT: The Constitution Project
Daniel Schuman 202-580-6922
Constitution Project Commends Introduction of State Secret Protection Act
The Legislation Should Be Quickly Enacted to Protect Actual National Security Secrets and Respect the Right to Have Courts Decide Disputes
WASHINGTON - February 11 - The following statement can be attributed to Virginia Sloan, President of the Constitution Project: "The Constitution Project welcomes the introduction of the State Secret Protection Act in the House today. We call upon Congress to pass this legislation quickly. The State Secret Protection Act would protect actual national security secrets from public disclosure and respect the right to have the courts decide legal disputes.
In the wake of the Justice Department's disappointing decision on Monday to reassert the Bush administration's overbroad secrecy claims, the need for this legislation is apparent and compelling. We urge Congress to act quickly to preserve access to the courts and uphold our constitutional system of checks and balances.
The State Secret Protection Act would ensure that trial judges independently examine the evidence claimed to be subject to the state secrets privilege to determine whether the claim is valid. The legislation also includes critical safeguards necessary to ensure the proper balance of constitutional liberties, national security, and the interests of private parties."
The state secrets privilege is a legal doctrine whose purpose is to prevent public disclosure of particular evidence when the disclosure would threaten our national security. In Monday's oral argument in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, held before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Justice Department continued to press the Bush administration's broad claim for dismissal of the entire lawsuit, claiming its subject matter is a state secret. The suit involves the CIA's program of extraordinary rendition, which has been widely reported in the media.
Last week, the Constitution Project released a letter calling on the Obama administration to allow the Jeppesen lawsuit to go forward. In 2007, the Constitution Project released a report signed by a bipartisan coalition that endorsed reforming the state secrets privilege. To speak with our policy expert, please contact Daniel Schuman, Director of Communications and Counsel, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-580-6922.
The Constitution Project is a politically independent think tank established in 1997 to promote and defend constitutional safeguards. More information about the Constitution Project is available at http://constitutionproject.org/.