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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Constitution Project Commends Introduction of State Secret Protection Act
The Legislation Should Be Quickly Enacted to Protect Actual National Security Secrets and Respect the Right to Have Courts Decide Disputes
WASHINGTON - February 11 - The following statement can be attributed to Virginia Sloan, President of the Constitution
"The Constitution Project welcomes the introduction of the
State Secret Protection Act in the House today. We call upon
Congress to pass this legislation quickly. The State Secret Protection Act
would protect actual national security secrets from public disclosure and
respect the right to have the courts decide legal disputes.
In the wake of the Justice Department's disappointing decision on Monday to reassert the Bush administration's overbroad secrecy claims, the need for this legislation is apparent and compelling. We urge Congress to act quickly to preserve access to the courts and uphold our constitutional system of checks and balances.
The State Secret Protection Act would ensure that trial judges independently examine the evidence claimed to be subject to the state secrets privilege to determine whether the claim is valid. The legislation also includes critical safeguards necessary to ensure the proper balance of constitutional liberties, national security, and the interests of private parties."
The state secrets privilege is a legal doctrine whose purpose is to prevent public disclosure of particular evidence when the disclosure would threaten our national security. In Monday's oral argument in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, held before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Justice Department continued to press the Bush administration's broad claim for dismissal of the entire lawsuit, claiming its subject matter is a state secret. The suit involves the CIA's program of extraordinary rendition, which has been widely reported in the media.
Last week, the Constitution Project released a letter calling on the Obama administration to allow the Jeppesen lawsuit to go forward. In 2007, the Constitution Project released a report signed by a bipartisan coalition that endorsed reforming the state secrets privilege. To speak with our policy expert, please contact Daniel Schuman, Director of Communications and Counsel, at dschuman@constitutionproject.