US Supreme Court Refuses German CIA Terror Case

The US Supreme Court has refused to consider the case of a German man of Lebanese descent who alleges he was kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by the Central Intelligence Agency after being mistaken for a September 11 terror suspect.

Khaled el-Masri said he was on holiday in Macedonia in late 2003 when he was abducted by CIA agents and transported to Afghanistan, where he was imprisoned and tortured for four months. When his captors realized that his was a case of mistaken identity, they released him in Albania.

Mr Masri brought his case against former CIA Director George Tenet, three private airlines and 20 unnamed employees of the CIA and the airlines. Mr Masri sought $75,000 for his ordeal and an apology.

The case is one of the most high profile examples of the US government’s highly controversial “extraordinary rendition” program, in which terror suspects are taken into custody and transported to secret prisons in third countries that allow interrogation practices that may reach the level of torture.

After Mr Masri filed his first lawsuit suit in the US in December 2005, the Bush administration succeeded in having the case dismissed under state secrets privilege, arguing that providing evidence in the case would compromise national security.

When Mr Masri’s lawyers were unsuccessful in having the initial dismissal overturned in a court of appeals, they turned to the Supreme Court. They argued that there were precedents whereby courts had placed limits on the evidence presented, which had avoided a blanket refusal to hear cases dealing with national security.

Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, who represented Mr Masri, said that the courts had permitted the state secrets doctrine to evolve from evidentiary privilege to a broad grant of immunity, which serves to shield the executive branch from judicial review.

“The central facts of this case are not state secrets and do not become so simply because the government insists,” he said.

Mr Masri’s claims of kidnapping and torture by the CIA have sparked outrage in Europe, where the program of “extraordinary rendition” has been condemned by Germany, other European governments and the European Union for moral, judicial and political reasons.

In January 2007, prosecutors in Germany ordered the arrest of 13 CIA agents after investigating Mr Masri’s claims. The German Parliament is also investigating his case.

The US has never admitted that it played any role in Mr Masri’s abduction.

Sources: Deutsche Welle; The New York Times


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