CIA squelches CIA lawsuit. Huh?

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A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program, saying a trial would compromise national security.

Judge T. S. Ellis 3d ruled in favor of the Bush administration, which had argued that the “state secrets” privilege provided an absolute bar to the lawsuit against a former C.I.A. director and transportation companies. Judge Ellis said the suit’s going forward, even if the government denied the contentions, would risk an exposure of state secrets.

The case involves Khaled el-Masri, a Kuwaiti-born German, who was arrested on Dec. 31, 2003, in Macedonia, where he had gone for a vacation. From there, he was flown to a prison in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was held for five months before being released. During his incarceration in Kabul, he has said, he was shackled, beaten and injected with drugs.

I understand needing to protect state secrets. But there has to be some recourse for people wrongly detained or abused by the government. “National security” cannot be a blank check for wrongdoing. And in this case the “evidence” of harm appears to be a simple affidavit by Porter Goss. With all due respect to Mr. Goss, it seems ludicrous that the CIA director has the power to squelch a lawsuit against his agency simply by saying it would harm national security.

This case is a bit odd in that regard anyway, because the government has largely acknowledged most of el-Masri’s claims:

United States officials have acknowledged the principal elements of Mr. Masri’s account, saying intelligence authorities may have confused him with an operative of Al Qaeda with a similar name. The officials also said he was released in May 2004 on the direct orders of Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, after she learned he had been mistakenly identified as a terrorism suspect.

Then make amends to the guy already, and allow a debate on whether we should be rendering people like this, as well as what safeguards are in place to prevent and if necessary remedy mistakes and wrongdoing.

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