Mohamed v. Jeppesen, Part II
By: Lily Moallem on June 9, 2011
In February of this year, On the Record posted a piece about Mohamed v. Jeppesen Data Plan, Inc., a case brought by five alleged victims of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program seeking damages for torture and forced disappearance. After the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the suit, the ACLU filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. On Monday, May 13th, the Supreme Court denied the ACLU’s petition for certiorari without comment, leaving unanswered myriad questions regarding the character and scope of the state secrets doctrine – a judicially created privilege recognizing that, in certain circumstances, national security may trump the interests of individual litigants.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations have increasingly invoked the state secrets doctrine to suppress lawsuits touching upon delicate issues of alleged civil and human rights violations by the U.S. government. In Jeppesen, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that the state secrets doctrine serves as a disreputable means through which the federal government may avoid any judicial accountability for unlawful conduct. Three of the five plaintiffs have received compensatory payments from various European countries for their involvement in the U.S. extraordinary rendition program, a program the general existence of which the U.S. government does not deny. Yet the states secret doctrine has denied the plaintiffs not only compensatory payment but also acknowledgment of wrongdoing from the U.S. government.