The Supreme Court this week declined to hear the case of a German man—Khaled el-Masri—who says he was kidnapped by the CIA while he was vacationing in Macedonia, taken to an Afghan prison, and tortured in a case of mistaken identity. The decision effectively endorsed the Bush administration’s argument that allowing the case to proceed would reveal national security secrets.
What the commentators said
“Score one for the White House,” said Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times (free registration required). Now it “gets to keep its secrets to the bitter end.” The court’s decision “ratified a dangerous idea:” that the government “can ignore the law with impunity, then stop lawsuits by simply asserting that a court case would jeopardize national security.”
The court is pushing the justice system in the “wrong direction,” said The New York Times in an editorial (free registration). The state secrets doctrine was intended to “shield specific evidence,” but the court is effectively broadening it to give the Bush administration “immunity for subjecting Masri to ‘extraordinary rendition,’ the morally and legally unsupportable United States practice of transporting foreign nationals to be interrogated in other countries known to use torture and lacking basic legal protections.”
Masri may have a legitimate complaint, said Ed Morrissey in his Captain’s Quarters blog, if he really has no connections to terrorism, and was abducted and interrogated for half a year. “Unfortunately, with the kind of war we're fighting, we have to err on the side of our safety.” But the court made the right decision. The U.S. is at war, and we can’t afford to let “the American civil system from becoming another venue for attack by terrorists.”