Congressional Democrats have reintroduced legislation to curb the government’s use of the state secrets privilege, Congressional Quarterly reports. The controversial privilege allows courts to dismiss cases that may endanger national security.
Courts traditionally have shown great deference to the government’s determination of whether a threat to national security exists, but the bill would require judges to evaluate for themselves whether the privilege is appropriate.
The congressional action comes after the Obama administration on February 9 passed up its first opportunity to repudiate the Bush administration’s frequent use of the privilege. Justice Department lawyers told a San Francisco federal court that they still planned to invoke the privilege in Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, a private case against Boeing Co. alleging the company participated in the “extraordinary rendition” program by flying people to countries where they were allegedly tortured.
At the same time, a Justice Department spokesman said that new Attorney General Eric Holder “has directed that senior Justice Department officials review all assertions of the state secrets privilege to ensure that the privilege is being invoked only in legally appropriate situations.”