'State Secrets' Privilege Hits Supreme Court
Critics say government abuses privilege aimed at national security
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Jan 17, 2011 4:23 PM CST
In this March 5, 2009, photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(Newser) – The Supreme Court this week will, for the first time in decades, hear a case questioning aspects of the government’s oft-used “state secrets” privilege, USA Today reports. The federal government has used the argument frequently since 9/11, such as in cases of warrantless surveillance and prisoner interrogation; it has allowed the US to keep sensitive information from exposure in court by holding that it would jeopardize national security. But some argue that the government has wielded the state-secrets exemption, first recognized by the Supreme Court in 1953, inappropriately.

This week’s case addresses a 1988 Navy contract that the government terminated amid delays. The US wanted $1 billion back, and invoked state secrets when the contractors took them to court arguing they shouldn't have to repay the money. The contractors argued that in using the state secrets privilege, the US limited their access to documents it needed to prove the delays weren't their fault. Critics say the government shouldn’t be able to use the argument to financial benefit. The US “is trying to use the privilege as a mechanism to take away a contractor's ability to defend itself,” said a lawyer for the contractors. “This is not using it as a shield. This is unquestionably using it as a sword."

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Showing 3 of 6 comments
Jan 18, 2011 3:25 AM CST
Something is fishy here. The military will not give out "secrets", so the corporations win in court? This sounds like beautiful gyrations by the Military Industrial Complex. Follow the money trail.
Jan 17, 2011 10:45 PM CST
It's bizarre that a civil case such as this will provide the context for the SCOTUS to rule on these important issues, rather than one of the Guantanamo terrorism prosecutions. This will be interesting. Please newser, let us know about it when the result comes down. B ^)
Jan 17, 2011 4:53 PM CST
State Secrets? When I quit, in '84, a person had to sign, which I didn't, a form saying that they could not discuss among other things Reagan, the GOP, the nerve gas Reagan gave Iraq, and various other things (read everything) that they knew about the govt. The Secrets Act, which I didn't sign, goes for 25 years. Guess what, guys. It ended in 2009, oddly the same year I lost my job and retirement benefits, etc. When the dam breaks, Uncle Sam, the flood of information will make Wikileaks look like a drip. I probably won't be around to see it, but it aught to be something.