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Department of Justice Limits Use of State Secrets Privilege

Today, the Department of Justice announced a new policy that limits the government’s use of the state secrets privilege. The state secrets privilege is a rule of evidence intended to prevent genuine matters of national security from being disclosed in open court. However, recently it has been misused by both the Bush and Obama administrations in order to derail litigation completely. For instance, in 2007 EPIC filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in a warrantless wiretapping case, Hepting v. United States, in which the government argued that the case should be dismissed because it would reveal “state secrets.” Under the new policy, the privilege will be invoked only "to the extent necessary to protect against the risk of significant harm to national security." The Attorney General will also have to approve each determination. The State Secret Protection Act of 2009,  legislation with a similar purpose, is now pending in Congress. For more information, see EPIC Open Government.

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