Later On

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Posts Tagged ‘SCOTUS

State secrets aid coverups

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From Froomkin today:

David G. Savage writes in the Los Angeles Times: “In a victory for the Bush administration and its use of the ‘state secrets’ defense, the Supreme Court refused Tuesday to hear a lawsuit from a German car salesman who said he was wrongly abducted, imprisoned and tortured by the CIA in a case of mistaken identity.

“The court’s action, taken without comment, was a setback for civil libertarians who had hoped to win limits on the secrecy rule, a legacy of the Cold War.

“Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the so-called state secrecy privilege has been invoked regularly to bar judges or juries from hearing claims of those who say they were beaten, abused or spied upon by the government during its war on terrorism. Administration lawyers have argued successfully that hearing such claims in open court would reveal national security secrets.

“Civil libertarians said Tuesday that the government was using the secrecy defense to cover up its own wrongdoing. They also said the broad use of this rule was doing further damage to the nation’s image, already sullied by international condemnation of its ‘extraordinary rendition’ program of arresting terrorism suspects and transporting them to foreign countries for interrogation.”

Linda Greenhouse writes in the New York Times: “In refusing to take up the case, the justices declined a chance to elaborate on the privilege for the first time in more than 50 years. . . .

“The Supreme Court created the doctrine in a 1953 decision, United States v. Reynolds, which began as a lawsuit by survivors of three civilians who had died in the crash of a military aircraft. In pretrial discovery, the plaintiffs sought the official accident report.

“But the government, asserting that the report included information about the plane’s secret mission and the equipment that it was testing, refused to reveal it. The Supreme Court upheld the government, ruling that evidence should not be disclosed when ‘there is a reasonable danger that compulsion of the evidence will expose military matters which, in the interest of national security, should not be divulged.'”

When, decades later, the family of one of the deceased military crew members finally acquired declassified copies of the documents, it turned out that there were no national security secrets in them — just embarrassing information about the Air Force’s negligence.

For more background, read renowned constitutional scholar Louis Fisher‘s essay on state secrets.

Written by Leisureguy

10 October 2007 at 11:08 am

US evades responsibility

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Apparently wrongdoing can be protected by calling it a “state secret.” And the practice of imprisoning and torturing people who are only suspects but have not been tried or convicted inevitably means that some of the suspects turn out to be innocent. This story marks a sad day for our country:

The Supreme Court today declined to hear the case of a German citizen who said he was kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by the CIA.

A federal district court judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit had earlier dismissed the case brought by Khaled el-Masri, agreeing with the government that the case could not go forward without exposing state secrets. The Supreme Court denied review without comment.

Masri, who is of Lebanese descent, has said he was detained by Macedonian police on Dec. 31, 2003, and handed over to the CIA a few weeks later. He said he was taken to a secret CIA-run prison in Afghanistan and physically abused before he was flown back to the Balkans without explanation in May 2004 and dumped on a hillside in Albania.

German officials said they were later informed privately by their U.S. counterparts that Masri was detained in a case of mistaken identity, apparently confused with a terrorism suspect of a similar name. U.S. officials have not publicly admitted any guilt or responsibility in the case.

The American Civil Liberties Union had taken up Masri’s case. Lawyers for the group said the Bush administration was using the state secrets privilege too broadly, invoking it to stop lawsuits relating to wiretapping and whistle-blowers as well as terrorism cases.

In this case, they argued in asking the court to take the case, “the entire world already knows” the information the government said it is seeking to protect.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

9 October 2007 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

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Frank Rich on Clarence Thomas

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Good point:

WHAT’S the difference between a low-tech lynching and a high-tech lynching? A high-tech lynching brings a tenured job on the Supreme Court and a $1.5 million book deal. A low-tech lynching, not so much.

Pity Clarence Thomas. Done in by what he calls “left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony” — as he describes anyone who challenged his elevation to the court — he still claims to have suffered as much as African-Americans once victimized by “bigots in white robes.” Since kicking off his book tour on “60 Minutes” last Sunday, he has been whining all the way to the bank, often abetted by a press claque as fawning as his No. 1 fan, Rush Limbaugh.

We are always at a crossroads with race in America, and so here we are again. The rollout of Justice Thomas’s memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” is not happening in a vacuum. It follows a Supreme Court decision (which he abetted) outlawing voluntary school desegregation plans in two American cities. It follows yet another vote by the Senate to deny true Congressional representation to the majority black District of Columbia. It follows the decision by the leading Republican presidential candidates to snub a debate at a historically black college as well as the re-emergence of a low-tech lynching noose in Jena, La.

Perhaps most significant of all, Mr. Thomas’s woe-is-me tour unfolds against the backdrop of the presidential campaign of an African-American whose political lexicon does not include martyrdom or rage. “My Grandfather’s Son” may consciously or not echo the title of Barack Obama’s memoir of genealogy and race, “Dreams From My Father,” but it might as well be written in another tongue.

It’s useful to watch Mr. Thomas at this moment, 16 years after his riveting confirmation circus. He is a barometer of what has and has not changed since then because he hasn’t changed at all. He still preaches against black self-pity even as he hyperbolically tries to cast his Senate cross-examination by Joe Biden as tantamount to the Ku Klux Klan assassination of Medgar Evers. He still denies that he is the beneficiary of the very race-based preferences he deplores. He still has a dubious relationship with the whole truth and nothing but, and not merely in the matter of Anita Hill.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

6 October 2007 at 7:37 pm

Posted in Books, GOP, Government

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Anita Hill responds to Justice Thomas’s book

with 2 comments

From the NY Times Op-Ed section:

ON Oct. 11, 1991, I testified about my experience as an employee of Clarence Thomas’s at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

I stand by my testimony.

Justice Thomas has every right to present himself as he wishes in his new memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son.” He may even be entitled to feel abused by the confirmation process that led to his appointment to the Supreme Court.

But I will not stand by silently and allow him, in his anger, to reinvent me.

In the portion of his book that addresses my role in the Senate hearings into his nomination, Justice Thomas offers a litany of unsubstantiated representations and outright smears that Republican senators made about me when I testified before the Judiciary Committee — that I was a “combative left-winger” who was “touchy” and prone to overreacting to “slights.” A number of independent authors have shown those attacks to be baseless. What’s more, their reports draw on the experiences of others who were familiar with Mr. Thomas’s behavior, and who came forward after the hearings. It’s no longer my word against his.

Justice Thomas’s characterization of me is also hobbled by blatant inconsistencies. He claims, for instance, that I was a mediocre employee who had a job in the federal government only because he had “given it” to me. He ignores the reality: I was fully qualified to work in the government, having graduated from Yale Law School (his alma mater, which he calls one of the finest in the country), and passed the District of Columbia Bar exam, one of the toughest in the nation.

In 1981, when Mr. Thomas approached me about working for him, I was an associate in good standing at a Washington law firm. In 1991, the partner in charge of associate development informed Mr. Thomas’s mentor, Senator John Danforth of Missouri, that any assertions to the contrary were untrue. Yet, Mr. Thomas insists that I was “asked to leave” the firm.

It’s worth noting, too, that Mr. Thomas hired me not once, but twice while he was in the Reagan administration — first at the Department of Education and then at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After two years of working directly for him, I left Washington and returned home to Oklahoma to begin my teaching career.

In a particularly nasty blow, Justice Thomas attacked my religious conviction, telling “60 Minutes” this weekend, “She was not the demure, religious, conservative person that they portrayed.” Perhaps he conveniently forgot that he wrote a letter of recommendation for me to work at the law school at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa. I remained at that evangelical Christian university for three years, until the law school was sold to Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va., another Christian college. Along with other faculty members, I was asked to consider a position there, but I decided to remain near my family in Oklahoma.

Regrettably, since 1991, I have repeatedly seen this kind of character attack on women and men who complain of harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In efforts to assail their accusers’ credibility, detractors routinely diminish people’s professional contributions. Often the accused is a supervisor, in a position to describe the complaining employee’s work as “mediocre” or the employee as incompetent. Those accused of inappropriate behavior also often portray the individuals who complain as bizarre caricatures of themselves — oversensitive, even fanatical, and often immoral — even though they enjoy good and productive working relationships with their colleagues.

Finally, when attacks on the accusers’ credibility fail, those accused of workplace improprieties downgrade the level of harm that may have occurred. When sensing that others will believe their accusers’ versions of events, individuals confronted with their own bad behavior try to reduce legitimate concerns to the level of mere words or “slights” that should be dismissed without discussion.

Fortunately, we have made progress since 1991. Today, when employees complain of abuse in the workplace, investigators and judges are more likely to examine all the evidence and less likely to simply accept as true the word of those in power. But that could change. Our legal system will suffer if a sitting justice’s vitriolic pursuit of personal vindication discourages others from standing up for their rights.

The question of whether Clarence Thomas belongs on the Supreme Court is no longer on the table — it was settled by the Senate back in 1991. But questions remain about how we will resolve the kinds of issues my testimony exposed. My belief is that in the past 16 years we have come closer to making the resolution of these issues an honest search for the truth, which, after all, is at the core of all legal inquiry. My hope is that Justice Thomas’s latest fusillade will not divert us from that path.

Anita Hill, a professor of social policy, law and women’s studies at Brandeis University, is a visiting scholar at the Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2007 at 2:14 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

Tagged with , ,

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