More Of The Same

The LA Times hoped the Obama Justice Department would “show up in court Monday and reject the approach of the previous administration, letting the case go forward.”

The NY Times said this case would give “Mr. Obama a chance to show how serious he is about repairing Mr. Bush’s legacy of harm.”

A former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the head of the Iraq Survey Group called on the new administration “to demonstrate its commitment to transparency, accountability and the rule of law by allowing judicial review of the state secrets claims in the Jeppesen case.”

On Monday, the ACLU presented oral arguments in its appeal of the dismissal of a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in extraordinary rendition torture flights. The Bush administration had the lawsuit thrown out in 2008 by misusing the “state secrets” privilege to claim that litigating the case further would jeopardize national security.

Like many major papers and editorial pages noted, Monday was the new administration’s chance to make a clean break from Bush policies on state secrets, and to turn the rhetoric of ending torture and rendition into action. But on Monday, to the astonishment of human rights advocates, lawyers, and even, some suggested, the three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a government lawyer arguing on behalf of the Obama administration stood up in court and, making arguments that he said had “been thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration,” made the same exact claims made under Bush about why the torture victims should not have a chance to seek justice.

Douglas N. Letter, arguing for the government, claimed that the entire case was a state secret, despite the facts that much of the information about the extraordinary rendition program is already known to the public; that a former Jeppesen employee gave a sworn declaration about the company’s role in the program; and that courts in other countries are reviewing the global program (in fact, it seems the ONLY place extraordinary rendition isn’t being talked about is where it most cries out for review- in American courts of law). And Letter made this assertion in spite of the fact that President Obama ran on a platform that promised more transparency in government and called the Bush administration abuse of the state secrets privilege a “problem.”

The five men who are plaintiffs in our lawsuit against Jeppesen were kidnapped, flown to CIA black sites and other overseas locations, and tortured. Two of them have since been released without ever facing any charges. All of them have been denied the chance to seek justice for what was done to them.

The new administration has decided to stay the course. Now we must hope that the court will assert its independence by rejecting the government's false claims of state secrets and allowing the victims of torture and rendition their day in court.

For more on this issue, read Glenn Greenwald’s excellent posts here and here.

By: Rachel L. Myers, Media Relations Associate