Bush Administration Uses ‘State Secrets Privilege’ To Escape Accountability

This week, six private citizens — including author Studs Terkel — joined the ACLU in a lawsuit against AT&T, claiming the company gave the NSA “sensitive information about massive numbers of domestic phone calls.”

But AT&T and the government may force the courts to shut down the case. With increasing frequency, the Bush administration is employing the state secrets privilege, “a once-rare tactic that essentially gives the government a blank check to kill civil suits.” (Verizon picked up the administration’s lead and invoked the privilege to shield itself from public scrutiny over the NSA surveillance program.)

A look at the government’s increasing abuse of the practice:

— A recent study found that the federal government “has successfully asserted the secrets privilege at least 60 times since the early 1950s and has been stymied five times.”

— “It was invoked only four times in the first 23 years after the U.S. Supreme Court created the privilege in 1953, but now the government is claiming the privilege to dismiss lawsuits at a rate of more than three a year.”

Even more troubling is that the state secrets privilege is based on a 1953 Supreme Court decision that was “based more on concealing negligence than preserving national security.”

Kevin Drum has more.