Help Limit the "State Secrets" Privilege - Page 3

Help Limit the "State Secrets" Privilege

This is a discussion on Help Limit the "State Secrets" Privilege within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; ** CONFRONTING THE STATE SECRETS PRIVILEGE ** CHINA'S CURRENCY, AND MORE FROM CRS CONFRONTING THE STATE SECRETS PRIVILEGE At a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing today, ...

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Thread: Help Limit the "State Secrets" Privilege

  1. #31
    Ex Member Array spy1's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Charlotte, NC


    At a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing today, witnesses discussed
    the feasibility and advisability of legislating reforms to the state
    secrets privilege.

    The state secrets privilege has been used by the executive branch to
    block discovery in civil litigation when the government believes that
    there is an unacceptable risk of disclosure of sensitive national
    security secrets. But on several occasions, the mere assertion of the
    privilege has led to termination of the lawsuit. It has effectively
    short-circuited the adjudication of claims against the government
    involving domestic surveillance, unlawful detention, and torture.

    "I do believe thoughtful legislation is needed to insure that maximum
    and uniform efforts are made to strike the right balance between
    national security needs and fair judicial proceedings," said the Hon.
    Patricia M. Wald, the retired chief judge of the DC Circuit Court of
    Appeals in testimony today.

    Legislative intervention was also endorsed by H. Thomas Wells, Jr., the
    president-elect of the American Bar Association, and by Kevin Bankston
    of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose lawsuit on warrantless
    domestic surveillance has prompted state secrets claims by the

    Patrick Philbin, a former deputy attorney general, argued that any
    legislative proposal to permit judges to overrule the executive branch
    regarding the sensitivity of particular information "would be a

    The prepared statements from today's hearing are posted here:

    Congressional Documents on Secrecy, 2008

    Last week, Senators Kennedy, Specter and Leahy introduced "The State
    Secrets Protection Act." The text of that legislation is now available

    Introduction of the State Secrets Protection Act (S. 2533)

  2. #32
    VIP Member Array OPFOR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Quote Originally Posted by sniper58 View Post
    OPFOR - no offense intended to hard working, HONEST people in the State Department. That part of the Government seems to have more issues (reported/rumored) than others I hear of. Sorry if I offended :(
    No worries - many in DoS are indeed worthless oxygen thieves - but that holds for any large group. I give FSOs a ration of **** daily, believe me!

    As to who classifies things - me, for one. If there is a question on whether or not something should be classified, what level it should be classified, or what reason/justification should be used for classification (there are only a few reasons, BTW), there is a review board in my department that investigates. I can only assume that there are similar groups in place in other departments.

    By the way, there are technically only three levels of classification:

    Top Secret (TS) - The highest level of classification of material on a national level. Such material would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security if publicly available.

    Secret - Such material would cause "serious damage" to national security if publicly available.

    Confidential - Such material would cause "damage" or be "prejudicial" to national security if publicly available.

    There are subsections of TS clearance, some of which fall under SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Information) and other names, but they are still technically "just" Top Secret. There are levels below Confidential, as well (Sensitive But Unclassified, Law Enforcement Sensitive, FOUO, etc) but there are technically NOT classified as they have no national security value (only personal, official, investigative, etc.)

    While it would be possible to clear enough judges to hear most cases, the problem is not with the judges. It is with the plaintiffs, attornies, JURIES, and everyone else involved in a criminal or civil trial (remember, this is as much about civil cases as it is about criminal ones). It is simply not possible (or desireable) to have that many folks - cleared or not, they don't have a need to know - involved with our classified info. If we could boil it down to just the judges, we'd be able to make something work, but that isn't how our system functions...
    A man fires a rifle for many years, and he goes to war. And afterward he turns the rifle in at the armory, and he believes he's finished with the rifle. But no matter what else he might do with his hands - love a woman, build a house, change his son's diaper - his hands remember the rifle.

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