Atty: 'Court closed to victims, complete immunity to torturers'...
By Brad Friedman on 9/8/2010, 4:36pm PT  

From Charlie Savage at New York Times [emphasis added]:

A sharply divided federal appeals court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit [PDF] involving the Central Intelligence Agency’s practice of seizing terrorism suspects and transferring them to other countries for imprisonment and interrogation. The ruling handed a major victory to the Obama administration in its effort to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy power.

Gosh. Can't understand why Obama's approval ratings keep falling.

In any case, the heart of this matter is the Government's "alleged" right (the President of the United States' actually) to use the so-called "state secrets privilege" to keep victims of alleged torture from ever even having a day in court --- even when one of those victims, as in this case, charges that his torture included "cutting his penis and other body parts with a scalpel and then pouring stinging liquid on the wounds."

Good thing none of this was done by Iran. We'd be outraged...

This case was brought by the ACLU on behalf of five former prisoners who claim to have been tortured in the CIA's rendition program. The man who says his penis was cut claims that he was repeatedly tortured during the more than six years that he was held, in three different countries (including at Gitmo), before being freed.

Unless the finding of the appellate court is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, the man, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen and legal resident of the United Kingdom, will never even get his day in court, thanks to the work of both Presidents Bush and Obama, as Savage reports. In today's finding "a narrow majority endorsed the broader view of executive secrecy powers, concluding that the lawsuit must be dismissed without even a trial that would be limited to already-public information."

"To this date, not a single victim of the Bush administration’s torture program has had his day in court," [the ACLU's Ben] Wizner said. "That makes this a sad day not only for the torture survivors who are seeking justice in this case, but for all Americans who care about the rule of law and our nation’s reputation in the world. If this decision stands, the United States will have closed it courts to torture victims while providing complete immunity to their torturers."

To the Times' credit (for a change, no doubt thanks to the excellent reporting of the estimable Savage), the article highlights the change between Obama's campaign positions and those of his actual administration:

The decision bolstered an array of ways in which the Obama administration has pressed forward with broad counter-terrorism policies after taking over from the Bush team, a degree of continuity that has departed from the expectations fostered by President Obama’s campaign rhetoric, which was often sharply critical of President Bush’s approach.

Among other policies, the Obama team has also placed a United States citizen on a targeted-killings list without a trial, blocked efforts by detainees in Afghanistan to bring habeas-corpus lawsuits challenging their indefinite imprisonment, and continued the C.I.A. rendition program...
As a senator and candidate for the White House, President Obama had criticized the Bush administration’s frequent use of the state-secrets privilege. In February 2009, when his weeks-old administration reaffirmed the Bush administration’s view on the case, civil libertarian groups that had supported his campaign expressed shock and dismay.

For the record, here's Savage's description of the lead plaintiff Mohamed's allegations, for which he'll never have a day in court if this ruling is allowed to stand:

The lead plaintiff in the case is Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen and legal resident of the United Kingdom who was arrested in Pakistan on immigration charges. He claimed he was turned over to the C.I.A., which flew him to Morocco and turned him over to the Moroccan security service, who held him for 18 months and subjected him to an array of tortures, including beatings, 24-hour subjection to loud music, and cutting his penis and other body parts with a scalpel and then pouring stinging liquid on the wounds.

Mr. Mohamed was later transferred back to the C.I.A., which flew him to one of its secret prisons in Afghanistan, where he said he was subjected to loud noise like the recorded screams of women and children 24 hours a day. He was later transferred to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was imprisoned for nearly five years before he was released and returned to the United Kingdom. He is now free.

No doubt Glenn Beck and the Tea Baggers will be descending upon Washington again with torches, bible and pitchforks soon to decry the activist liberal judges of the Ninth Circuit and the outrageously unconstitutional abuses of executive power by the President of the United States --- right?

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UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald's similar take here...

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