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US asks court to dismiss lawsuit on secret flights

The US government asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit against a unit of Boeing Co that charges the firm helped fly suspects abroad to secret prisons.

world Updated: Oct 20, 2007 08:27 IST
Adam Tanner

The US government asked a federal court late on Friday to dismiss a lawsuit against a unit of Boeing Co that charges the firm helped fly suspects abroad to secret prisons.

"Allowing plaintiffs' claims to proceed would risk the disclosure of highly classified information concerning the alleged 'intelligence activities, sources, and methods' of the CIA," said the filing, signed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bucholtz.

The American Civil Liberties Union first filed a complaint in May accusing Jeppesen Dataplan Inc of providing flight and logistical support to at least 15 aircraft on 70 "extraordinary-rendition" flights.

The complaint to the US District Court for the Northern District of California alleged Jeppesen "falsified flight plans to European air traffic control authorities to avoid public scrutiny of CIA flights."

The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of five men who say the CIA had them flown to foreign prisons for interrogations and torture.

In its response on Friday, the US government asked the judge to dismiss the case or issue a summary judgment in its favor.

"Although the President and other officials have acknowledged that the CIA operates a terrorist detention and interrogation program ("program"), these officials have specifically refused to confirm or deny any operational details concerning that program," it said.

Those details "include whether any private entities or other countries assisted the CIA in conducting the program; the dates and locations of any detentions and interrogations; the methods of interrogation employed in the program; and the names of any individuals detained and interrogated by the CIA (other than fifteen individuals whose identities have been divulged so that they can be brought to trial)."

All of those details are secret and central to the case, and so cannot be litigated, the government argued.

In response, the ACLU said the victims of the program deserved their day in court.

"The whole world knows about the US 'extraordinary rendition' program and the government's invocation of 'state secrets' in this case is just another cynical attempt by the administration to cover up an illegal and immoral program," said ACLU lawyer Steven Watt.