Funny how, as Greg Sargent at The Plum Line notes today, the Obama administration hasn’t yet taken a position on pending legislation that would curtail its ability to rely on the “state secrets privilege.”
As I’ve been reporting here, the Justice Department has been relying heavily on the privilege to try to dismiss cases that could reveal embarrassing information about government actions — much to the dismay of supporters of civil liberties and open government, many of whom also strongly supported Obama.
But refusing to support the State Secrets Protection Act could also prove embarrassing, observes Sargent. This is because when the bill was first introduced last year, its co-sponsors included then-Sens. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), now both senior members of the Obama administration.
As I’ve written before, the bill — which would limit the executive’s ability to use the evidentiary privilege to dismiss outright legal challenges to government conduct — was reintroduced this year by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Arlen Spector (R-Pa.), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), as well as Reps. Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and others in the House. The bill was reintroduced in February, just as the Obama administration stepped into the Bush administration’s shoes — and began arguing that “state secrets privilege” required the dismissal of several sensitive cases alleging torture, warrantless wiretapping and other illegal activity by the Bush administration.
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