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30 May, 2011 22:32

‘State secrets’ defense is a cover-up for torture – activist

‘State secrets’ defense is a cover-up for torture – activist

The US Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case of an airline accused of providing planes for the controversial “extraordinary rendition program,” a refusal that peace activist Charlotte Casey called a cover-up for torture and secret prisons.

The appeal asked the court to examine the practice of terrorism suspects allegedly being transferred to secret CIA prisons abroad for interrogation and, some claim, torture.The terrorism suspects sued Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan in 2007 for transferring them to prisons around the world where, they claim, they were tortured. The high court has refused several other appeals based on the government's invocation of state secrets to derail lawsuits.“The existence of these prisons and the existence of the program has been acknowledged by the Bush administration and later by the Obama administration,” Casey told RT. “But somehow these people who’ve been tortured and really have been through terrible situations do not get their day in court because the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal.”“When Obama took office he promised transparency, promised his administration would be open and above board and let people know what they are doing,” Casey said. “We really don’t know what’s happening. And it’s very possible this program is continuing in this way or another.” “The practice of torture is illegal, it’s immoral, it’s completely forbidden by international conventions, including the Geneva Convention – which the US is supposed to be a party to” Casey noted. “This is illegal activity, and by using the cover of ‘state secrets would be revealed’ – it’s just a way of continuing not to have accountability for this program, and by the Supreme Court passing on even hearing it, it means they are not living up to their constitutional responsibility to oversee what the executive branch is doing.”

Eric Montalvo, a US military attorney who has defended detainees at Guantanamo Bay, thinks there are ways to review such matters behind closed doors.“I don’t understand exactly what the administration is trying to resolve here by asserting the ‘states secret’ position,” he said.“The US is not interested in revealing its cooperation with various nations,” he said. “Some of them, if they did reveal they’re cooperating with the US, it would create internal problems for them. So I think this is more a matter of diplomacy than a legal position.”

The director of the Institute for Policy Studies, Phyllis Bennis, talked to RT about why she thinks the latest decisions by the government and the Supreme Court pose a threat to the US justice system. “By refusing to hear this case, they leave in place a ruling that essentially says the federal government – whenever they choose – can stop a lawsuit on the grounds of what is called ‘state privilege’ or ‘state security’ without any judicial oversight. It’s very dangerous,” she said.“Private corporations, private contractors are playing a far greater role in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, as well as at home, in issues that once belonged solely to the government,” she continued. “And this is a huge problem, because it means that we see legal decisions are being carried out by private corporations. There’s even less accountability. There are even greater barriers between getting information about who is responsible, holding them accountable, bringing them to justice. This is a serious attack on the justice system of the US.”