US ASSERTS STATE SECRETS PRIVILEGE AGAIN
The Department of Justice last week formally asserted the state
secrets privilege in seeking to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Maher
Arar, a Syrian-Canadian who was detained in the U.S. in 2002 and
sent against his will to Syria, where he says he was tortured
until his release a year later.
The state secrets privilege was invoked "in order to protect the
intelligence, foreign policy and national security interests of
the United States," wrote Acting Attorney General James B. Comey
in a January 18 declaration in the lawsuit Maher Arar v. John
Ashcroft in the Eastern District of New York.
"Litigating... plaintiff's complaint would necessitate disclosure
of classified information," Mr. Comey wrote, including disclosure
of the basis for detaining him in the first place, the basis for
refusing to deport him to Canada as he had requested, and the
basis for sending him to Syria.
Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security, concurred in another
sworn declaration submitted to the court. See both declarations
"The state secrets privilege is an absolute bar to civil litigation
that would require disclosure of protected information," the
Justice Department wrote in an accompanying memorandum.
See "Memorandum in Support of the United States' Assertion of
States Secrets Privilege," January 18, 2005:
"Use of the state secrets privilege in courts has grown
significantly over the last twenty-five years," wrote William G.
Weaver and Robert M. Pallitto of the University of Texas at El
Paso in a forthcoming study. And "recent cases indicate that Bush
administration lawyers are using the privilege with offhanded
Whatever its intent or justification, the consequence of increased
reliance on the state secrets privilege is to curtail judicial
review of controversial government activities in an area where
oversight is already lacking or ineffective.
The state secrets privilege was invoked last year to block the
lawsuit of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds (SN, 05/18/04). That
matter will be heard on appeal in the DC Circuit Court in April.
Maher Arar is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights
from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2005, Issue No. 8
January 25, 2005
PROLIFERATION SECURITY INITIATIVE
The Bush Administration's Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)
is a rather bold counterproliferation effort that seeks to promote
international cooperation to stem global traffic in weapons of
mass destruction-related materials. It functions not simply
through enforcement of existing controls but also, and more
controversially, through the interdiction of illicit commerce.
The purposes and limitations of the PSI are summarized in a new
report from the Congressional Research Service, "Proliferation
Security Initiative," January 14, 2005:
A State Department Fact Sheet on the Proliferation Security
Initiative, newly updated on January 11, 2005, is here:
More detailed background is provided in "Overcoming Challenges to
the Proliferation Security Initiative" by Herbert N. Warden IV, a
masters thesis prepared at the Naval Postgraduate School,
SOME MORE CRS PRODUCTS
Some new or newly updated reports from the Congressional Research
Service obtained by Secrecy News include the following.
"Border Security: Fences Along the U.S. International Border,"
January 13, 2005:
"Terrorism and Security Issues Facing the Water Infrastructure
Sector," updated January 5, 2005:
"Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces: Facts and Issues," updated
January 10, 2005:
"Capital Punishment: An Overview of Federal Death Penalty
Statutes," updated January 5, 2005:
"Security Classification Policy and Procedure: E.O. 12958, as
Amended," updated January 7, 2005:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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