WASHINGTON, DC - March 13 - Legislation introduced today may give a much-needed
reprieve to those who have sued the government and encountered the state secrets
privilege. The legislation, introduced by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY),
would establish appropriate limits on the use of the state secrets privilege.
The Bush administration has misused the privilege to halt several important
lawsuits against the government, including an ACLU case involving the
extraordinary rendition of an innocent German citizen, Khaled El-Masri. Similar
legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Edward Kennedy
"This administration has abused the state secrets privilege to the point that
it is now synonymous with ‘no comment,’" said Caroline Fredrickson, director of
the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "Congressman Nadler’s legislation will
reinstate the role of the judiciary as a check against abuse of power as it will
require a court to more closely examine the government’s national security
claims for legitimacy. We can’t allow our president’s actions to go consistently
unchallenged when there is evidence of government misconduct, simply because the
government invokes ‘state secrets.’"
ACLU litigators have opposed the Bush administration’s illegal policies of
warrantless surveillance, extraordinary rendition and torture in the courts. The
administration has frequently invoked the state secrets privilege, not to
protect sensitive evidence from disclosure, but to stymie entire lawsuits
alleging executive misconduct – even before any requests for evidence have been
made. The ACLU is urging Congress to exercise its constitutional authority and
pass legislation to narrow the state secrets privilege and require courts to
exercise independent judicial review over all government state secrets claims.
"This bill could open the courthouse doors for those who’ve suffered
legitimate harm at the hands of our government," said Fredrickson. "People may
not understand that many of the cases shut down by the state secrets privilege
have a true and human cost. By tailoring the law to guard against abuse, this
fix to the state secrets privilege could have a true and human reward. We urge
the House Judiciary Committee to pass this legislation and to send it to the
floor for a vote without delay."
To read more about the ACLU’s work on NSA spying, go to:
To read more about the case of Khaled El-Masri, go