View Full Version : Bush Faces Court Ruling Over CIA Prisons

10-08-2007, 08:51 AM
Bush faces court ruling over CIA prisons


(Gold9472: How much do you want to bet the Supreme Court rules in Bush's favor.)

By Patti Waldmeir and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Updated: 3:42 a.m. ET Oct 8, 2007

The administration of President George W. Bush could face a further challenge to its anti-terrorism policies from the Supreme Court, which is expected to say on Tuesday whether it will take up a case involving US secret prisons overseas.

The court met on Friday to discuss whether to hear El-Masri v US, a case of mistaken identity involving a German citizen who claims he was held for months and tortured at a secret prison in Afghanistan, even after US intelligence officials realised they had the wrong man.

The court's decision will come at a time when the administration is facing renewed criticism over its interrogation policies, in the wake of revelations last week that the department of justice authorised controversial interrogation techniques in 2005. In 2004 the department had denounced torture as "abhorrent".

Civil liberties groups are urging the justices to hear the Masri case, which was dismissed by a federal appeals court on the grounds that it would require disclosure of state secrets.

Mr Masri claims he was detained while on holiday in Macedonia, because his name was similar to that of a wanted al-Qaeda terrorist. He says he was turned over to CIA agents who flew him to a secret prison in Kabul where he was held for five months. He claims to have been drugged, beaten and tortured - and fitted with a nappy by his captors - before being released in Albania.

The Council of Europe, which conducted an investigation into Mr Masri's allegations, has filed a brief in the case. Senator Dick Marty, chairman of the council's legal affairs and human rights committee, argues in the brief that "the US government has hidden behind the state secrets doctrine in order to escape judicial accountability for its actions" in the "war on terror" and that it should not be allowed to do so in the Masri case.

The issue in the case is whether the government can avoid answering Mr Masri's allegations, or whether it must respond to them - even if the evidence is kept out of open court. "How can it be that the whole world can talk about this case and the only place it can't be talked about is in a federal courtroom? It's outrageous," says Steven Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU is also bringing another case challenging the government's right to use its state secrets privilege to stay out of court. ACLU v NSA, involves the administration's secret surveillance programme. The government faces litigation around the country on this issue and has sought to avoid defending itself in court on the grounds that national security would be jeopardised. The justices will decide whether to hear the ACLU case later this year.

They have already agreed to consider whether detainees at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba have the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court. The US Congress stripped them of that right with the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The country's top court must decide whether that law violates the constitution.

If the court agrees to hear both the renditions case and the surveillance case, it could pose a challenge to the powers employed by the administration to wage the "war on terror".

The White House has already been rebuffed by the conservative court in several rulings on its powers in the terror war, including the 2006 ruling in Hamdan v Rumsfeld, which struck down as unlawful the military tribunal system set up for Guantánamo prisoners.

In Baghdad, Iraq's government raised the death toll from a shooting involving security contractor Blackwater to 17, from 11 previously. A spokesman accused the US firm of "deliberate killing" and said its guards fired without provocation.

10-09-2007, 01:04 PM
Court rejects alleged CIA kidnap victim


By MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 9 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Tuesday terminated a lawsuit from a man who claims he was abducted and tortured by the CIA, effectively endorsing Bush administration arguments that state secrets would be revealed if the case were allowed to proceed.

Khaled el-Masri, 44, alleged that he was kidnapped by CIA agents in Europe and held in an Afghan prison for four months in a case of mistaken identity.

The administration has not publicly acknowledged that el-Masri was detained, and lower courts dismissed his suit after the administration asserted that state secrets would be revealed if the lawsuit was not blocked. The justices rejected his appeal without comment.

The case had been seen as a test of the administration's legal strategy to stop it and several other national security lawsuits by invoking the doctrine of state secrets. Another lawsuit over the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, also dismissed on state secrets grounds, still is pending before the justices.

"We are very disappointed," Manfred Gnijdic, el Masri's attorney in Germany, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his office in Ulm.

"It will shatter all trust in the American justice system," Gnijdic said, charging that the United States expects every other nation to act responsibly, but refuses to take responsibility for its own actions.

"That is a disaster," Gnijdic said.

A coalition of groups favoring greater openness in government says the Bush administration has used the state secrets privilege much more often than its predecessors.

At the height of Cold War tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union, U.S. presidents used the state secrets privilege six times from 1953 to 1976, according to OpenTheGovernment.org. Since 2001, it has been used 39 times, enabling the government to unilaterally withhold documents from the court system, the group said.

El-Masri's case centers on the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, in which terrorism suspects are captured and taken to foreign countries for interrogation. Human rights groups have heavily criticized the program.

President Bush has repeatedly defended the policies in the war on terror, saying as recently as last week that the U.S. does not engage in torture.

El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was mistakenly identified as an associate of the Sept. 11 hijackers and was detained while attempting to enter Macedonia on New Year's Eve 2003.

He claims that CIA agents stripped, beat, shackled, diapered, drugged and chained him to the floor of a plane for a flight to Afghanistan. He says he was held for four months in a CIA-run prison known as the "salt pit" in the Afghan capital of Kabul. The lawsuit sought damages of at least $75,000.

The U.S. government has neither confirmed nor denied el-Masri's account. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that U.S. officials acknowledged that El-Masri's detention was a mistake.

El-Masri's account also has been bolstered by European investigations and U.S. news reports. In January, German prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA agents who allegedly took part in the operation against him.

El-Masri's lawyers also tried to use a comment by former CIA director George Tenet to show that both the program and el-Masri's case are well-known to the public.

Rather than refuse to comment when asked about El-Masri's claims, Tenet told CNN in May, "I don't believe what he says is true."

The state secrets privilege arose from a 1953 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the executive branch to keep secret, even from the court, details about a military plane's fatal crash.

Three widows sued to get the accident report after their husbands died aboard a B-29 bomber, but the Air Force refused to release it claiming that the plane was on a secret mission to test new equipment. The high court accepted the argument, but when the report was released decades later there was nothing in it about a secret mission or equipment.

The case is El-Masri v. U.S., 06-1613.

10-09-2007, 01:05 PM
I hate being right all of the time. It's like a predictable movie where you know the ending way ahead of time.