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Court: CIA 'Black Sites' Locations Remain State Secret

The Supreme Court blocked an attempt by lawyers for a Guantánamo Bay detainee to question former CIA contractors about the abusive treatment he received at one of the agency's "black sites," the Washington Post reports. Lawyers for Abu Zubaida are seeking information for prosecutors in Poland who are investigating whether Zubaida's torture at multiple CIA sites, including 83 instances of waterboarding and the loss of one eye, occurred in their country. In the majority opinion joined by five justices, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that just because many details about the detention and treatment are publicly known does not force the government to make disclosures that it argues credibly are state secrets that would harm national security. The specific location "would itself significantly harm national security interests," Breyer wrote.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of three dissenters, said the government was simply trying to minimize its shame over the treatment of Abu Zubaida, whom court documents refer to as Abu Zubaydah. “There comes a point where we should not be ignorant as judges of what we know to be true as citizens,” wrote Gorsuch, who was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “Ending this suit may shield the government from some further modest measure of embarrassment. But respectfully, we should not pretend it will safeguard any secret.” The government still contends Abu Zubaida is a terrorism suspect and was a close ally of Osama bin Laden. But he denied ever being an al-Qaeda leader. A district judge dismissed the case, but a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said the judge did not do enough to untangle information that could be revealed and that which the government legitimately could withhold. In a second state-secrets reversal of the 9th Circuit, the Supreme Court ruled Friday that the appeals court was wrong to find that surveillance law trumps state secrets privilege in circumstances where information is obtained by electronic means and remanded a dispute filed by Muslims who allege the FBI illegally spied on them, Law360 reports. Sheikh Yassir Fazaga, Ali Uddin Malik and Yasser AbdelRahim had filed a putative class action in 2011, claiming the FBI and its agents had unconstitutionally bugged their homes and used an informant to surreptitiously record information within the local Muslim community in Orange County, California, as part of a purported terrorism investigation.


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