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Five foreign men lose 'extraordinary rendition' case

U.S. Supreme Court lets stand a ruling against five men who sued a CIA contractor for its alleged role in abducting them abroad and spiriting them to secret interrogation sites. The court says the president has the power to scuttle their lawsuit because of national security.

May 17, 2011|By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times
  • A file photo of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A file photo of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Reuters )

Five foreign men who sued a San Jose-based CIA contractor for its alleged role in abducting them abroad and spiriting them to secret interrogation sites have exhausted their legal avenues for getting the practice known as "extraordinary rendition" branded a human rights violation.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday to let stand a federal appeals court ruling that the president has the power to scuttle the men's lawsuit because state secrets, such as how CIA operatives interrogate terror suspects, could be revealed if the case went to trial.

"The Supreme Court has refused once again to give justice to torture victims and to restore our nation's reputation as a guardian of human rights and the rule of law," said Ben Wizner, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the case on behalf of the five men. "To date, every victim of the Bush administration's torture regime has been denied his day in court."

The Obama administration stood by Bush's invocation of the state secrets doctrine in urging dismissal of the case, but a Justice Department spokesman said the policy is used only when absolutely necessary to protect national security.

In a sharply divided ruling in September, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 6 to 5 to uphold the president's power to shield wartime actions from judicial scrutiny. The ruling dismissed the case brought by the former detainees against Boeing Co. subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan Inc. of San Jose.

The appeals court ruling included details of the men's accounts of being snatched off the streets in their resident countries, then blindfolded, shackled, stripped and transported to CIA "black sites" where they were subjected to harsh interrogation techniques.

Lead plaintiff Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident, spent four years at the U.S. detention compound at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after confessing to plotting terrorism. Mohamed told the war crimes tribunal at Guantanamo that he confessed to crimes he didn't commit because he was tortured during his CIA detention, including having his genitals sliced with a scalpel.

All five of the men were eventually released without charges.

carol.williams@latimes.com

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