SAN FRANCISCO — A sharply divided federal appeals court on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit challenging a controversial post-Sept. 11 CIA program that flew terrorism suspects to secret prisons.
The complaint was filed by five terrorism suspects who were arrested shortly after 9/11 and say they were flown by a Boeing Co. subsidiary to prisons around the world where they were tortured. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited national security risks when it dismissed the men’s case in a 6-5 ruling Wednesday.
The case could have broad repercussions on the national security debate as it makes its way toward the Supreme Court, and it casts a spotlight on the controversial “extraordinary rendition” program the Bush administration used after 9/11.
The Obama administration subsequently said it would continue to send foreign detainees to other countries for questioning, but rarely — and only if U.S. officials are confident the prisoners will not be tortured.
The appeals court reinforced the broad powers of the president to invoke the so-called “state secrets privilege” to stop lawsuits involving national security almost as soon as they are filed.
The terror suspects sued Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan in 2007, alleging that the extraordinary rendition program amounted to illegal “forced disappearances.” They alleged that the San Jose-based subsidiary conspired with the CIA to operate the program.
A trial court judge quickly dismissed the lawsuit after the Bush administration took over defense of the case from Chicago-based Boeing and invoked the state secrets privilege, demanding a halt to the litigation over concern that top secret intelligence would be divulged.
Three of the five plaintiffs have been released from prison.