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U.S. Supreme Court

Is State Secrets Doctrine Used for Cover-up?

Posted Oct 11, 2007 9:01 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The aftermath of a 1953 U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the state secrets doctrine shows why the decision needs to be revisited, the New York Times says in an editorial.

The decision, United States v. Reynolds, cited national security concerns in refusing to allow three widows access to an accident report regarding the crash of a military aircraft that killed their husbands.

When documents about the crash finally came to light a few years ago, “it became clear that the government had lied,” the newspaper said. “The papers contained information embarrassing to the government but nothing to warrant top secret treatment or denying American citizens honest adjudication of their lawsuit.”

The editorial suggests the government could be relying on the state secrets doctrine for similar reasons in the case of Khaled el-Masri, who has been unable to get a court hearing for his challenge to the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program. He says he was detained and tortured in an overseas prison under the CIA program in a case of mistaken identity.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case on Tuesday.

“It’s hard to imagine what, at this point, needs to be kept secret, other than the ways in which the administration behaved irresponsibly, and quite possibly illegally, in the Masri case,” the editorial says.

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