Appeals Court Decision Denies Extraordinary Rendition Victims Their Day in Court
San Francisco – A federal appeals court today dismissed a case against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan, Inc. for its role in the Bush administration's extraordinary rendition program. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Northern California filed the lawsuit in May 2007 on behalf of five men who were kidnapped by the CIA, forcibly disappeared to U.S.-run prisons overseas and tortured. The Bush administration intervened in the case, improperly asserting the "state secrets" privilege in an attempt to have the lawsuit thrown out.
In April 2009, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the government must invoke the state secrets privilege with respect to specific pieces of evidence – not over an entire lawsuit. The Obama administration appealed that ruling, and in December the appeal was heard by an en banc panel of all 11 Ninth Circuit judges. According to the ACLU, today's ruling all but shuts the door on accountability for the illegal program. The ACLU intends to seek Supreme Court review of the decision.
The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU, who argued the case before the Ninth Circuit:
"This is a sad day not only for the torture victims whose attempt to seek justice has been extinguished, but for all Americans who care about the rule of law and our nation's reputation in the world. To date, not a single victim of the Bush administration's torture program has had his day in court. If today's decision is allowed to stand, the United States will have closed its courtroom doors to torture victims while providing complete immunity to their torturers. The torture architects and their enablers may have escaped the judgment of this court, but they will not escape the judgment of history."
Attorneys on the case are Wizner, Steven Watt, Steven R. Shapiro and Jameel Jaffer of the national ACLU, Julia Harumi Mass of the ACLU of Northern California, Paul Hoffman of the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP and Hope Metcalf of the Yale Law School Lowenstein Clinic. In addition, Margaret L. Satterthwaite and Amna Akbar of the International Human Rights Clinic of New York University School of Law and Clive Stafford-Smith and Zachary Katznelson represent plaintiffs in this case.