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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Judge dismisses el-Masri CIA rendition suit on state secrets grounds
Bernard Hibbitts at 7:18 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge Thursday dismissed [order, PDF] a highly-publicized lawsuit [materials] brought by the ACLU against CIA Director George Tenet and other agency officials and employees on behalf of Khalid El-Masri [JURIST news archive], a German national who alleges [el-Masri statement] that he was kidnapped in Macedonia in 2003 in an instance of extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive], held by the CIA in Afghanistan where he was subjected to inhumane conditions and coercive interrogation, and finally released in 2004 and dropped off in Albania without ever being charged. Government attorneys argued [JURIST report] last week before US District Judge T.S. Ellis that the suit could jeopardize US national security interests by exposing CIA methods and activities to the general public, and presented a classified affidavit [public version, PDF text] by former CIA director Porter Goss asserting the executive privilege of the president to protect US state and military secrets. In his decision, Ellis acknowledged that dismissing the suit "deprives el-Masri of an American judicial forum for vindicating his claims", but insisted that "el-Masri's private interests must give way to the national interest...".

The US Supreme Court established the state secrets privilege in the 1953 case United States v. Reynolds [opinion text]. The government invoked the privilege [News Media & The Law commentary] in only four cases between 1953 and 1976, but it has been invoked more than 20 times since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and at least five times in the past year, counting the el-Masri case. El-Masri, a father of five, had sought $75,000 in damages, which his lawyer had suggested could be dropped in exchange for a personal apology from Tenet. Reuters has more.

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