The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals took a courageous stand this week when it ruled that five alleged victims of the government's "extraordinary rendition" program -- each of whom says he was kidnapped and tortured at the behest of the U.S. government -- were entitled to their day in court.
That may not sound like an extraordinary victory, but it is. The three-judge panel that made the ruling in Mohamed vs. Jeppesen Dataplan Inc. did so over the strenuous objections of the Bush and Obama administrations, both of which called for the case to be tossed out under what's known as the "state secrets privilege."
A Justice Department lawyer, for instance, argued in February that such vital secrets were at stake in the case that going forward would be "playing with fire." And former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden's warning was even more ominous: Information would be disclosed that could help America's enemies and cause "exceptionally grave" danger to U.S. national security.
To their credit, the judges did not roll over. They noted that the government's powers to protect secret information were "not the only weighty constitutional values at stake." They concluded, among other things, that it is possible to protect secrets on a document-by-document basis without dismissing entire cases.