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March 2nd, 2007 - Appeals Court Dismisses CIA Torture Lawsuit

News article by Reuters

Summary of the Al-Masri Kidnapping Case

Appeals Court Dismisses CIA Torture Lawsuit


By James Vicini


March 2, 2007 4:43 PM ET


Washington - A U.S. appeals court on Friday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against former CIA Director George Tenet and 10 CIA employees by a German who says he was kidnapped and tortured by the U.S. spy agency about three years ago.


A unanimous three-judge panel of the appeals court based in Richmond, Virginia, agreed with U.S. government arguments that moving forward with the lawsuit by Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese origin, would pose a risk of exposing state secrets.


The appeals court upheld a federal judge's ruling that dismissed the lawsuit that seeks at least $75,000 in damages.


The case has drawn worldwide attention to the U.S. "extraordinary rendition" policy in which terrorism suspects have been sent from one foreign country to another for interrogation.


Masri's case sparked outrage in Germany and prompted a parliamentary inquiry to find out what authorities might have known about U.S. renditions.


Masri said he was abducted by Macedonian authorities on December 31, 2003, while on vacation. He said he was held prisoner in a Skopje hotel room for 23 days and beaten, stripped and mistreated.


He said he was then taken by members of a CIA team and flown to Afghanistan, where he was held as a terrorism suspect for five months. Masri said he was held in solitary confinement and deprived of sleep.


Masri said he was flown to Albania on May 28, 2004, and dumped on the side of a road in the middle of the night.


Masri said the CIA knew soon after his arrival in Afghanistan that he was innocent, but he was still held until the end of May.


The defendants in the lawsuit included Tenet, 10 unnamed CIA employees, 10 employees of three private companies, and the companies, which Masri said owned the airplanes used to transport him.


The appeals court said if the lawsuit were to go forward, it would involve the roles played by the defendants in the operation.


It threatens to expose "how the CIA organizes, staffs and supervises its most sensitive intelligence operations," it said.


"With regard to Director Tenet, for example, Masri would be obliged to show in detail how the head of the CIA participates in such operations and how information concerning their progress is related to him," the appeals court said.


The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Masri, expressed disappointment at the ruling and said it will consider appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.


"Regrettably, today's decision allows CIA officials to disregard the law with impunity by making it virtually impossible to challenge their actions in court," ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said.


Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.


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