The danger that state secrets could be revealed outweighs a German man's claims that the CIA tortured him in an Afghan prison, a federal appeals court ruled Friday in refusing to reinstate his lawsuit.
The case centers on the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, in which terrorism suspects are captured and taken to foreign countries for interrogation. Human rights groups have heavily criticized the program.
The three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's dismissal of Khaled el-Masri's lawsuit against former CIA director George Tenet and others.
El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was mistakenly identified as an associate of the Sept. 11 hijackers and was kidnapped while attempting to enter Macedonia on New Year's Eve 2003.
He claims he was flown to a CIA-run prison known as the "salt pit" in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was beaten and sodomized with an object during five months in captivity. The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $75,000.
The U.S. government has neither confirmed nor denied el-Masri's account.
El-Masri claimed facts about the CIA program are so well known because of news reports and public statements by U.S. officials that his lawsuit would not expose any state secrets. The appeals court disagreed.
Writing for the panel, Judge Robert King said the only way that el-Masri could mount his case was by using "evidence that exposes how the CIA organizes, staffs and supervises its most sensitive intelligence operations."
‘Grants the CIA complete immunity’
Ben Wizner, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing el-Masri, said he and his client will discuss whether to seek a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"What's most troubling about this is it literally grants the CIA complete immunity to engage in any kind of misconduct," Wizner said.
Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller declined to comment.
Along with Tenet, defendants included corporations that allegedly owned and operated the airplanes used to transport el-Masri, and several unknown employees of those corporations and the CIA.