Graphic via Caribdude at The Agonist.
As I wrote over the weekend, progressives who really hoped the Obama administration would roll back the Bush years' secrecy over illegal renditions and torture were waiting with intense interest to see what would happen in a key court case today. Five men were suing Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, accusing the flight-planning company of aiding the CIA in flying them to other countries and secret CIA camps where they were tortured.
One of those men is Binyam Mohamed, who was illegally kidnapped and had his penis sliced to bits because he read a spoof online about how to make an H-bomb and who is now still held at Gitmo, where he is on hunger-strike, even though he is no longer accused of any crime. He made headlines at the end of last week because two British judges accused the Bush and Obama administrations of threatening the British government to keep evidence of torture supressed. Two other plaintiffs are in jail in Egypt and Morocco, both countries known to practise torture, after being sent there by the US and the other two are free after being held for years.
Last year, the case went nowhere because the Bush administration invoked a special defense of state secrets, as it always did to prevent any cases brought by victims of illegal rendition and torture from even getting to word one. But the ACLU had filed an appeal which was held today.
The Obama administration announced that it would keep the same position as the Bush Administration:
A source inside of the Ninth U.S. District Court tells ABC News that a representative of the Justice Department stood up to say that its position hasn't changed, that new administration stands behind arguments that previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The DOJ lawyer said the entire subject matter remains a state secret.
...Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU said of the decision: “Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again.”
Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the ACLU, who argued the case for the plaintiffs said, “We are shocked and deeply disappointed that the Justice Department has chosen to continue the Bush administration’s practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course. Now we must hope that the court will assert its independence by rejecting the government’s false claims of state secrets and allowing the victims of torture and rendition their day in court.”
A spokesman for Holden says the AG is going to conduct a "review" of state secrets defense to ensure that "the privilege is being invoked only in legally appropriate situations". How much of a review is needed to decide that invoking state secrets to bury Binyam Mohamed's attempts to seek justice is "appropriate" ferchrissake?
Many progressives are going to be upset by this. Glen Greenwald, for example, writes that "Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability -- resoundingly and disgracefully". Based on his conversation after the case with the ACLU's Ben Wizner, Glenn continues:
This was an active, conscious decision made by the Obama DOJ to retain the same abusive, expansive view of "state secrets" as Bush adopted, and to do so for exactly the same purpose: to prevent there from being any judicial accountability of any kind.
You can forget the notion that those who ordered torture and those who wrote legal opinions for them will ever see the inside of a US court on those charges. If Holden is continuing to invoke state secrets in cases such as today, no prosecution of Bush administration criminals will ever get to the satge of even hearing evidence. Thus, the Obama administration collectively become accessories to the Bush administration's crimes. In my opinion, any cabinet member who had an ounce of spine and an ounce of belief in the rule of law for all would resign over this travesty of justice. Watch for an utter lack of that.
Crossposted from Newshoggers