Wednesday, October 10, 2007

State Secrets?

What information can be considered a "state secret"?

Here, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case in which a German man was mistakenly abducted in Albania and tortured in a secret Afghanistan prison. Khaled el-Masri's lawsuit was tossed out of federal court and the 4th circuit court of appeals before being turned down by the supremes because the government claimed the case would compromise national security. The precedence for the case in the article below....

The Supreme Court created the doctrine in a 1953 decision, United States v. Reynolds, which began as a lawsuit by survivors of three civilians who had died in the crash of a military aircraft. In pretrial discovery, the plaintiffs sought the official accident report.

But the government, asserting that the report included information about the plane’s secret mission and the equipment that it was testing, refused to reveal it. The Supreme Court upheld the government, ruling that evidence should not be disclosed when “there is a reasonable danger that compulsion of the evidence will expose military matters which, in the interest of national security, should not be divulged.”

It appears that there may be some risk involved in revealing the location of secret prisons, but what is the criteria? I am not a lawyer (I only play one on the Internet), but it seems the government has a free hand to define "state secret".

There is no burden to prove that a fact must remain secret beyond merely stating so. Is what happened to Pat Tillman a state secret? It is if they want it to be. Also, what does the term "national security" encompass? That is potentially a very large field. According to the presidential candidates regulating the Internet and global warming are "national security" issues.

I can only hope the judiciary would not allow such a wild expansion.

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