Federal Court Rules CIA Prisoners Cannot Sue Over Extraordinary Rendition

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Fransisco dismissed a lawsuit brought by former prisoners of the C.I.A. who claim that they were tortured in overseas prisons. The divided 6-5 decision is the latest episode of the ongoing legal drama over extraordinary rendition, a C.I.A. program that allegedly transfers prisoners to foreign countries in order to torture them.

The decision is a legal victory for the Obama administration, which has argued that such lawsuits are dangerous as they might expose state secrets. The argument of state secrecy was also used to obstruct lawsuits during the Bush administration.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on behalf of five former prisoners, including an Ethiopian man and British legal resident who claims the C.I.A. turned him over to the Moroccan security service to be tortured after he was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. Other plaintiffs say they were tortured by the C.I.A. officers at "black sites" in Afghanistan. The lawsuit was filed against a Boeing subsidiary that arranged flights for prisoner transfers.

While the ruling presents the opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule on rendition, that scenario seems highly unlikely as all high courts have been in agreement on the issue as well as a history of the Court declining to rule on such cases.

For an insider's perspective on this case, we're joined by Robert Chesney, national security specialist at the University of Texas at Austin who served in the Justice Department in connection with the Detainee Policy Task Force.


Robert Chesney

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