Obama’s Justice Department backs Bush secrecy on renditions suit

"The Bush administration’s claim is that the ‘very subject matter’ of the suit is a state secret," said the New York Times. "We can understand why the Bush team would not want evidence of illegal detentions and torture presented in court, but the argument is preposterous."

"We hope the judges will have the courage to stand up to the government," said the LA Times on Saturday.

"The Attorney General has directed that senior Justice Department officials review all assertions of the State Secrets privilege to ensure that the privilege is being invoked only in legally appropriate situations," Matt Miller, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said in a prepared statement. "It is vital that we protect information that, if released, could jeopardize national security."

"The Justice Department will ensure the privilege is not invoked to hide from the American people information about their government’s actions that they have a right to know," Miller continued. "This administration will be transparent and open, consistent with our national security obligations."

"If the Obama administration does not change course, ACLU attorney Wizner will feel betrayed," reported National Public Radio on Sunday.

"It is hard for me to believe that a lawyer representing the United States, representing President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, will take the same extreme positions that I’ve been fighting against for the last several years," Wizner said on NPR’s All Things Considered. "It’s inconceivable, given the rhetoric that we’ve heard from candidate and President Obama."

in a Wednesday editorial

Update: ACLU ‘shocked and deeply disappointed’

"We are shocked and deeply disappointed that the Justice Department has chosen to continue the Bush administration’s practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture," Wizner said in a Monday advisory released after the government stated its position. "This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen 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."

"Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government," Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, said in the same release. "This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again."

"Our clients did not ask to be abducted, chained to the floor of planes, dressed in diapers and taken to a foreign country," Wizner told the court. "If you affirm (the judge’s dismissal of the case), plaintiffs will forever be shut out of their day in court."

The judges did not immediately issue a ruling.

The following video detailing Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., was produced by the American Civil Liberties Union, published May 30, 2007.

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