Two of the Bush administration's signature issues may soon face further challenges in the US Supreme Court. In one case, the high court will be asked to review lower court decisions upholding the constitutionality of the Military Commissions Act. In the other, lawyers may contest the government's use of the "state secrets privilege" in a case involving the practice of "extraordinary rendition."
Once rarely used, the state secrets privilege has over the past five years become a routine defense used by the US government to keep cases from being tried.
The privilege is based on a series of US legal precedents allowing the federal government to dismiss legal cases that it claims would threaten foreign policy, military intelligence or national security.
A relic of the Cold War with the former Soviet Union, it has been invoked numerous times since the September 11th, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Judges have denied the privilege on only five occasions.
It was used against Sibel Edmonds, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation 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 state secrets privilege and the Supreme Court upheld that decision. It has also been used to block legal actions by other "whistle-blowers" who work in the national security field.
The privilege was also invoked to stop the suit brought by Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was stopped at New York's John F. Kennedy airport on his way back to Canada from a vacation in North Africa, detained for several days without access to a lawyer or to his family, and then flown to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured for 10 months. He was released without charges.
Also, a blogger called WinterPatriot has written a post called Let Sibel Edmonds Speak - a good overview of the case, and begging that people call Congress and demand hearings. I join Winter in his begging.
Margie Burns is promising at Bradblog to write more about Sibel, and in particular, the news released earlier in the week with the two agents backing up Sibel's claims.
David Swanson and AfterDowningStreet are on the case too. Thanks for your help, guys.