US court allows rendition lawsuit against CIA contractor
The government says state secrets are at risk, but the 9th Circuit is allowing the case to proceed against a Boeing subsidiary that reportedly flew suspects to secret prisons.
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However, the Associated Press (AP) reports that the Court did agree that classified information needed to be protected, but objected to the position that such a concern necessitated automatically throwing out the case.Skip to next paragraph
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In what is sure to be a painstaking process, the Court advised judges to weigh the national security value of each individual piece of evidence before deciding on its admissibility, reports The New York Times.
The court said the government could ask judges to conduct a case-by-case review of whether the disclosure of specific documents would jeopardize national security. But allowing the executive branch to shut down an entire lawsuit whenever an official says its subject is classified would be a "concentration of unchecked power" and lead to abuses, it said.
Judge Hawkins said that if it turns out "privileged evidence is indispensable to either party," then the case may eventually be dismissed, reports the AP. The news service also reports that the Justice Department is "reviewing the court's decision."
According to the Chronicle, the government has several options at its disposal now. It can appeal to a larger panel of the Ninth Circuit Court or take the case to the Supreme Court. If it is defeated in both those venues, the case goes back to US District Judge James Ware in San Jose. He dismissed the case in the first place in February 2008.
"This historic decision marks the beginning, not the end, of this litigation," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, who argued the case for the plaintiffs. "Our clients, who are among the hundreds of victims of torture under the Bush administration, have waited for years just to get a foot in the courthouse door. Now, at long last, they will have their day in court. Today's ruling demolishes once and for all the legal fiction, advanced by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, that facts known throughout the world could be deemed 'secrets' in a court of law."
The Chronicle identifies the five plaintiffs as Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident arrested in Pakistan; Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi-born British resident arrested in Gambia; Ahmed Bashmilah, a Yemeni arrested while visiting his sick mother in Jordan; Ahmid Agiza, an Egyptian arrested in Sweden; and Abu Britel, an Italian citizen of Moroccan descent arrested in Pakistan. Of the five, two are still being detained at their rendition sites, says the Chronicle. Agiza is believed to be in Egypt and Britel in Morocco, while the rest have all been released without charges.