Both Houses of Congress Urge State Secrets Reform

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org  

Both Houses of Congress Urge State Secrets Reform

House and Senate Bills Should Be Passed Quickly, Says ACLU

WASHINGTON - Following introduction of a similar bill in the House, the Senate today dropped its version of a bill aimed at narrowing the use of the controversial state secrets privilege. Like its counterpart in the House, the Senate bill will give greater power to judges to review claims of state secrets by the government. The legislation was introduced by both the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA), as well as Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

While the state secrets privilege was intended to protect discrete pieces of sensitive evidence at trial, the government has attempted to throw out entire lawsuits with a blanket and improper assertion of the claim, most recently this week in the ACLU's case against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in facilitating extraordinary rendition.

The following can be attributed Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"Barricading the courthouse door with the overbroad misuse of the state secrets privilege has denied recourse to too many individuals seeking justice. Victims of torture, extraordinary rendition and other government misconduct have been stripped of their freedom and dignity at the hands of our government, and have had their only avenue of recourse completely thwarted. We must be able to hold our government accountable for its transgressions. This bill will reassert the role of the judiciary and rebalance the scales of justice. We applaud the Senators for introducing this vital piece of legislation."

To read the ACLU's statement on the bill introduced in the House, the State Secrets Protection Act of 2009, go to: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/38713prs20090211.html

To read the ACLU's statement on the Obama Justice Department's assertion of "state secrets" in the Jeppesen case, go to: http://www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/38695prs20090209.html

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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