4th Circuit Dismisses Suit By CIA Ghost Air Victim

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed the lawsuit by wrongly kidnapped and detained (and allegedly tortured) Khaled El-Masri. The opinion is here.

The ACLU may appeal to the Supreme Court. In a statement today, the ACLU says:

Although El-Masri’s case has been discussed and investigated throughout the world, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that it could not be either discussed or reviewed in an American court because of the government’s invocation of the “state secrets” privilege.

“Regrettably, today’s decision allows CIA officials to disregard the law with impunity by making it virtually impossible to challenge their actions in court,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “With today’s ruling, the state secrets doctrine has become a shield that covers even the most blatant abuses of power.”

You can read much more about his case on their website here.


The lawsuit charges that former CIA Director George Tenet violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when he authorized agents to abduct Mr. El-Masri, beat him, drug him, and transport him to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. The corporations that owned and operated the airplanes used to transport Mr. El-Masri are also named in the case. The CIA continued to hold Mr. El-Masri incommunicado in the notorious "Salt Pit" prison in Afghanistan long after his innocence was known. Five months after his abduction, Mr. El-Masri was deposited at night, without explanation, on a hill in Albania.

A judge dismissed the case in May 2006 after the government intervened, arguing that allowing the case to proceed would jeopardize state secrets. The ACLU appealed the dismissal in November 2006. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has now ruled, upholding the earlier decision that denies El-Masri a hearing in the United States. The ACLU is considering bringing the case to the Supreme Court.

The United States government has yet to acknowledge its unlawful abduction and mistreatment of Mr. El-Masri. No U.S. official has been held accountable for violating Mr. El-Masri's well-established rights to due process and fair treatment and the Fourth Circuit decision makes it virtually impossible to challenge the government in court.

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    Uber Paternalism (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Fri Mar 02, 2007 at 09:46:07 PM EST
    State secret defense amounts to nothing less than a blank check. How perfect. Strauss would have been pleased.

    It's hardly surprising then why Strauss is so popular in an administration obsessed with secrecy, especially when it comes to matters of foreign policy. Not only did Strauss have few qualms about using deception in politics, he saw it as a necessity. While professing deep respect for American democracy, Strauss believed that societies should be hierarchical - divided between an elite who should lead, and the masses who should follow. But unlike fellow elitists like Plato, he was less concerned with the moral character of these leaders.....

    .....less concerned with the moral character of these leaders..

    Moral character is a liabilty for the Straussian elite. Chimpy and Cheney et al are the current stars.  

    German radio reports (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Fri Mar 02, 2007 at 10:07:07 PM EST
    and, here's my translation* of their article:

    El-Masri suit against the USA rejected again.

    The presumed-to-have-been-kidnapped-by-the-CIA German El Masri has once again run aground in the US justice system.  An appellate court rejected his suit for damages.  The case endangered the national security of the USA.  It could make public state secrets.  The judges affirmed the decision in the Court of first instance (trial court).  El Masri alleges that the US-secret services (e.g., CIA) had dragged him off to Afghanistan in early 2004.  There he was beaten and was held for months in a CIA-prison.  There his tormentors knew that he was the victim of mistaken identity.  
    Last updated 23:18 (German time, 5:18 PM ET) March 2, 2007
    Source:  MDR Info

    It's pretty much a "just the facts" kind of report, written in a way that won't get anyone in trouble, and will serve the record of putting the report out there.  

    On German MDR radio at midnight this was, however, the second story. It followed only the lead story re fallout from a spectacular (bad adjective, but accurate) case local to the station, of a repeat child sex abuser kidnapping and killing a 9 year old boy, followed by a massive manhunt** and the alleged perp then throwing himself in front of a streetcar in a suicide try while police were in hot pursuit.  This guy had a history of convictions back into the early 80s, and you can guess where that discussion is going.

    Frankly, I think the Euros' disgust with the US, and particularly the US justice system, is starting to show through the veneer of civility with which they've treated the US and the USG so far.  Remember, on 9/12/01, they had an incredible, deep love and sympathy for us (as people, if not our government) - which our (peoples') conduct toward them and others over the past half century had earned.  

    Our government pi*sed that away, pi*sed on the Euros and told them they were naive, "Old Europe", not up to the task of surviving in the new world of terrism, etc., and they've about had it.  Within the last couple weeks, the Germans have gotten around to paroling, or outright freeing, several of the old Red Army Faction terrists - homegrown urban guerillas who, unlike Mr. El-Masri, Mr. Kurnaz, and many others, actually did kidnap, kill and terrorize during the late 70s and early 80s.  I'm not even sure the Red Army Faction folks were even the slightest bit repentant.  

    But, after 25 years (more or less) behind bars, the Germans figured they'd served their time, and applied the same law to their terrists that they do to their ordinary criminals.  They understand that, like their journalist said the other day and I quoted in my diary "We need a bulwark against The State ... and this bulwark is built out of justice and laws."  That was one of the core lessons of the Second World War - they lost their system of justice and of law to a Unitary Executive of plenary, unreviewable power, and learned there is a serious downside to that.  "Winning" the Second World War was no gift to the US, because the best learning sometimes comes from losing or failing.

    I'd suspect things will get rougher in Europe for the US in the coming months.  

    *  As always, if you don't like my translation, I link to the report in the original, so you can go and do it yourself.  Readers should note that (a) this German report is written heavily in passive voice and subjunctive mood, and (b) it was posted at 11:38 PM their time, which means it's an even worse Friday night news dump than we are used to.

    **  Knowing the alleged perp was a heavy smoker, the cops went so far as to stake out every cigarette vending machine in town.

    agreed squeaky (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Sat Mar 03, 2007 at 02:16:08 AM EST
    just invoke the "state secrets" act, and it's a "get out of court free" card. as long as the courts abdicate their responsibility, the fed. gov't is free to commit any atrocity, against anyone, anywhere, with no fear of punishment.

    that's a pretty sweet deal, where do i sign up?