State Secrets

State secrets showdown looms

by JOSH GERSTEIN | Politico  |  published on April 22, 2013


The Obama Administration and a federal judge in San Francisco appear to be headed for a showdown over the controversial state secrets privilege in a case about the U.S. government’s ‘no-fly’ list for air travel.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup is also bucking the federal government’s longstanding assertion that only the executive branch can authorize access to classified information.

The disputes arose in a lawsuit Malaysian citizen and former Stanford student Rahinah Ibrahim filed seven years ago after she was denied travel and briefly detained at the San Francisco airport in 2005, apparently due to being on the no-fly list.

In an order issued earlier this month and made public Friday, Alsup instructed lawyers for the government to “show cause” why at least nine documents it labeled as classified should not be turned over to Ibrahim’s lawyers. Alsup said he’d examined the documents and concluded that portions of some of them and the entirety of others could be shown to Ibrahim’s attorneys without implicating national security.

“After a careful review of the classified materials by the Court, this order concludes that a few documents could potentially be produced with little or no modifications to them,” Alsup wrote in an April 2 order (posted here). “This order independently determines that in addition to correspondence between the parties, the two internal training documents are eligible for production to plaintiff’s counsel without implicating national security.”

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