ACLU Asks Federal Court To Restore Torture Flight Lawsuit Against Boeing Subsidiary
SAN FRANCISCO - The
American Civil Liberties Union today asked a federal appeals court to
reinstate a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan for its
role in the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. The U.S. government
continues to misuse the "state secrets" privilege to avoid legal
scrutiny of the unlawful program. It has become increasingly clear in
recent months that other governments do not share the Bush
administration's conviction that the program must remain shrouded in
false claims of state secrets.
"The U.S. government continues to
use false claims of national security to dodge judicial scrutiny of
extraordinary rendition, even as other countries are openly examining
the unlawful program," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU
National Security Project. "The threat to our nation isn't from the
ACLU's lawsuit; the threat is from the government's continued
insistence on covering up an illegal and secret program that involves
flying innocent people to countries where they will probably be
Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen
was brought on behalf of five men who were kidnapped and secretly
transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies
overseas where they were interrogated under torture. On August 21,
Britain's High Court of Justice ruled that one of the men, Binyam
Mohamed, is entitled to receive documents from the British government
relating to his rendition, detention and interrogation, including
documents confirming the cooperation between the U.S. and U.K.
governments in those events. Last week another of the men, Ahmed Agiza,
received a $450,000 settlement from the Swedish government for its role
in his rendition to Egypt.
"Governments around the world are
coming clean about their participation in the rendition program by
handing over relevant documents and even paying restitution to the
victims. The U.S. government truly stands alone when insisting on
hiding behind false claims of state secrets," said Steven Watt, staff
attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. "The extraordinary
rendition program is well known throughout the world. The only place
it's not being discussed is where it most cries out for examination -
in a U.S. court of law."
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed
in support of the ACLU, several former U.S. diplomats charge that the
extraordinary rendition program has already harmed the United States'
standing in the world. According to the brief, immunizing illegal
government conduct from judicial scrutiny "would send a message that
the courts of the United States cannot be relied upon to provide even a
possibility of redress for those who allege flagrant abuses of both
domestic and international law in the course of counter-terrorism
operations," and "would signal that the United States does not respect
the rule of law in relation to such operations, and reinforce the
concerns that already impede international cooperation."
The ACLU's lawsuit charges that
Jeppesen knowingly aided the extraordinary rendition program by
providing flight planning and logistical support services for aircraft
and crews used by the CIA. The case was dismissed in February after the
government intervened, inappropriately invoking the "state secrets"
privilege to have it thrown out. However, the lawsuit cites abundant
evidence that is already in the public domain, including a sworn
affidavit by a former Jeppesen employee and flight records confirming
the company's involvement.
The ACLU is appealing the dismissal of the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
In addition to Wizner and Watt,
attorneys in the lawsuit are Steven Shapiro and Jameel Jaffer of the
national ACLU, Ann Brick of the ACLU of Northern California, Paul
Hoffman of the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman
LLP and Hope Metcalf of the Yale Law School Lowenstein Clinic. In
addition, Margaret L. Satterthwaite and Amna Akbar of the International
Human Rights Clinic of New York University School of Law and Clive
Stafford-Smith and Zachary Katznelson represent plaintiffs in this case.
The ACLU's brief is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/
Other documents related to the lawsuit, including press releases, legal documents and background information, are at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/
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