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Title: Supreme Court Tortures the Constitution Again
Source: [None]
URL Source: https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom ... rtures-the-constitution-again/
Published: Jun 11, 2022
Author: James Bovard
Post Date: 2022-06-11 07:55:03 by Ada
Keywords: None
Views: 16

The Supreme Court ruled in March that Americans have no right to learn the grisly details of CIA torture because the CIA has never formally confessed its crimes. The case symbolizes how the rule of law has become little more than legal mumbo-jumbo to shroud official crimes. And it is another grim reminder that Americans cannot rely on politically approved lawyers wearing bat suits to save their freedoms.

The state secrets doctrine has been an anti-Constitution scandal for at least 20 years.

In 2002, the CIA captured Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian radical, in Pakistan and falsely believed he was a kingpin with al Qaeda. The CIA tortured him for years in Thailand and Poland. As Justice Neal Gorsuch noted, the CIA “waterboarded Zubaydah at least 80 times, simulated live burials in coffins for hundreds of hours,” and brutalized him to keep him awake for six days in a row. The CIA has admitted some of the details of the torture, and Zubaydah’s name was mentioned more than a thousand times in a 683-page Senate report released in 2014 on the CIA torture regime. But the Supreme Court permitted the CIA to pretend that the case is still secret.

The holy relic of “state secrets” This case turned on the invocation of a holy bureaucratic relic of dubious origin — “state secrets.” As the court’s 6–3 ruling, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, noted, “To assert the [state secrets] privilege, the Government must submit to the court a ‘formal claim of privilege, lodged by the head of the department which has control over the matter.’” This is akin to permitting the Wizard of Oz to rotely certify that his curtain must remain closed for the good of all the munchkins in Oz. After a federal agency announces that it is entitled to secrecy, the court “should exercise its traditional “reluctance to intrude upon the authority of the Executive in military and national security affairs,” Breyer wrote. Breyer neglected to explain how self-government can be reconciled with near-total secrecy of an elected government’s foreign and military policies.

The court upheld a “state secrets” claim to block Zubaydah’s lawyers from serving subpoenas on the psychologist masterminds of the CIA torture program to learn the details of his interrogation in Poland. The court’s ruling also blocks Polish investigators seeking information about the crimes committed at a CIA torture site in their nation.

This case illustrated the fantasy world that permeates official Washington, D.C., controversies. In 2019, federal Judge Richard Paez rejected the CIA’s privilege claim because “in order to be a ‘state secret,’ a fact must first be a ‘secret.’” Even the president of Poland admitted that crimes were committed at that CIA torture site in his country.

But the Supreme Court disregarded common sense, ruling that “sometimes information that has entered the public domain may nonetheless fall within the scope of the state secrets privilege.” According to the Supreme Court, “truth” depends solely on what federal officials have publicly confessed. ACLU attorney Dror Ladin groused, “U.S. courts are the only place in the world where everyone must pretend not to know basic facts about the CIA’s torture program.”

It gets worse. Then-CIA chief Mike Pompeo asserted that exposing details of torture in Poland could hinder foreign spy agencies’ partnerships with the CIA. The court upheld “state secrets” to aid the CIA in “maintaining the trust upon which those relationships [between spy agencies] are based.” The court warned, “To confirm publicly the existence of a CIA [torture] site in Country A, can diminish the extent to which the intelligence services of Countries A, B, C, D, etc., will prove willing to cooperate with our own.”

The court acted as if it was merely smoothing the path for a Girl Scout troop to sell cookies at a shopping center instead of shrouding a “crime against humanity” (the United Nations’ verdict on torture). Pompeo bluntly described the CIA modus operandi: “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s like we had entire training courses.” The CIA’s long record of lawless assassinations did nothing to deter the deference it received from the court. Instead, the “mutual trust” between conniving spy agencies is more important than the trust that Americans should have in their own government.

State secrets and the war on terror In his decision, Justice Breyer stressed, “Obviously, the Court condones neither terrorism nor torture, but in this case we are required to decide only a narrow evidentiary dispute.” But the Supreme Court necessarily condones any crime it helps cover up. The court’s sweeping rulings on state secrets and sovereign immunity have provided a get-out- of-jail-free card for Bush-era torturers and torture policymakers. No victim of Bush-era torture has received justice in federal courts.

State-secrets claims multiplied after the start of the war on terror. The Bush administration routinely invoked state secrets to seek “blanket dismissal of every case challenging the constitutionality of specific, ongoing government programs,” according to a study by the Constitution Project. In 2007, federal judge Harry Pregerson groused that the “bottom line here is the government declares something is a state secret, that’s the end of it. The king can do no wrong.” In 2009, a federal appeals court slammed the Obama administration’s use of state secrets: “According to the government’s theory, the judiciary should effectively cordon off all secret government actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the CIA and its partners from the demands and the limits of the law.” The Obama administration invoked the state-secrets doctrine to justify refusing to disclose the standards it used to place Americans and others on the assassination list of suspected terrorists.

As author Barry Siegel noted, in the vast majority of cases where state secrets are invoked, “judges rule blindly, without looking at the disputed documents underlying the State Secrets claims.… They choose, instead, to trust the government — the ultimate act of faith.” Eventually, instead of a good excuse for breaking the law, all that is necessary is to claim that an excuse exists, even if the excuse is secret.

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