Help Limit the "State Secrets" Privilege
Secrecy News 01/24/08
"PRESSURE GROWS TO LIMIT THE STATE SECRETS PRIVILEGE
A rising tide of criticism of the use of the state secrets privilege to
derail litigation against the government has yielded new legislation
introduced in the Senate to define the privilege and to limit its use.
The state secrets privilege has been invoked with growing frequency to
deflect claims of unlawful domestic surveillance, detention, and
torture as well as other more mundane complaints, on grounds that
adjudicating them would cause unacceptable damage to national security.
But a new bill sponsored by Senators Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Arlen
Specter (R-PA) would provide a mechanism for protecting legitimate
secrets while also permitting litigation to proceed.
"The [proposed] Act ensures that the litigation process will not reveal
state secrets, using many of the same safeguards that have proven
effective in criminal cases and in litigation under the Freedom of
Information Act," according to a description issued by Senator
Kennedy's office. "For example, a court may limit a party's access to
hearings, court filings, and affidavits, or require counsel to have
appropriate security clearances."
And crucially, "The Act clarifies that the courts, not the executive
branch, must review the evidence and determine whether information is
covered by the state secrets privilege."
Senator Kennedy introduced the State Secrets Protection Act (S. 2533)
on January 22.
Introduction of the State Secrets Protection Act (S. 2533)
The personal story behind the controversial 1953 Supreme Court ruling
that established the state secrets privilege is featured, along with
other aspects of government secrecy, in the new film "Secrecy" by Peter
Galison and Robb Moss.
About :: SECRECY :: Official Film Website
The film premiered this past week at the Sundance Film Festival, where
it was reportedly well-received. "The question of how much we should
rely on methods inconsistent with our values is intelligently and
elegantly handled," wrote Los Angeles Times film reviewer Kenneth
I'm totally in favor of this legislation - if you are, too, please contact your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor/vote for the bill:
U.S. Senate Contact Information, Congressional Listings, Phone Numbers, Addresses, 110th Congress Pete