ACLU represented innocent victim of CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, but Virginia-based federal courts dismissed claims based on “state secrets” doctrine

Washington, D.C. -- The ACLU of Virginia today expressed extreme disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case of Khaled El-Masri, an innocent German citizen who was a victim of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program.
In the case -- which was filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria and later heard by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond -- lawyers for the National ACLU and the ACLU of Virginia claimed that the CIA violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when its operatives kidnapped El-Masri while he was on vacation in Macedonia and then placed him in a CIA-run “black site” in Afghanistan.
After several months of confinement in squalid conditions during which he was interrogated on numerous occasions, El-Masri was flown from Afghanistan and abandoned on a hillside in Albania. He was not charged with a crime or given access to a lawyer, and he was never given an explanation for why he was kidnapped. In addition, his family was completely unaware of what had happened to him.
Lawyers for the government neither confirmed nor denied the charges brought by El-Masri, but argued that his case should not be heard in court because state secrets undermining national security might be revealed. Both the district and appeals courts dismissed the case without allowing a hearing on the facts, and the Supreme Court, by refusing to hear the case, allowed the lower court decisions to stand.
“The rule of law is severely threatened when we allow the government to hide behind the state secrets doctrine,” added Willis. “If the executive branch can keep any case out of court by arguing that state secrets might be revealed, government accountability ceases to exist.”
Khaled El-Masri was represented by ACLU Legal Director Steve Shapiro, Steven Watt, Ben Wizner, Jameel Jaffer, and Melissa Goodman of the national ACLU, Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia, and Victor Glasberg of Victor M. Glasberg & Associates.
For more information on the El-Masri case, visit

Virginia ACLU Contact: Kent Willis, Office: 804-644-8022