Civil liberties, doctrine/privilege, civil litigation
The state secrets doctrine/privilege is a rule of evidence that when applied in a court of law excludes certain evidence from a suit on the ground that it falls under state secrets. The affidavits are produced by government agents with a view to stopping legal proceeding for they may harm national security. Matters that dwell on military intelligence, weaponry and espionage are classified as state secrets and cannot be released to citizens. In most civil litigation, the government has the right to intervene in the suit and have any information deemed to be out of the public realm be expunged from the suit. Consequently, the withdrawn privileged information denies the plaintiff any locus to continue with the litigation.
The case is forthwith dropped. The contentious issue is the plaintiff's civil rights whose violation had led to the litigation in the first instance. His civil liberties such as protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, protection from torture, freedom of expression and movement may have been infringed or violated (Nellington, 2009). However, they cannot be deliberated upon since the nature of the case or the evidence to be adduced falls under state secrets privilege (Collingsworth, 2010). This essay explores how much of a threat state secrets doctrine is to civil liberties
[...] Abuse of privilege violates of civil liberties There is a genuine need to protect state secrets and respect the privileged information. The law has numerous penalties to punish those who divulge classified information. However, there is always abuse of this right. There is a tendency to over classify documents that when released later, were not supposed to have been labeled "top secret" for protection. The executive uses its powers to present false and unreliable information to the judiciary (Nellington, 2009). [...]
[...] The general rule is that state secrets can not be litigated in open court. Any contract for spying is regarded as a state secret and can not be tried in open court. The case was dismissed. ii. Reynolds case Issue: A B-29 plane with civilians on board conducting secret experiments crashed. Their widows sued US Airforce (USAF). The widows wanted to evaluate the contents of the accident report during discovery. Rule: USAF claimed the accident report would harm national security for it contained state secrets. [...]
[...] They are seen as aiding the enemy and putting the lives of the citizens in grave danger (Nellington, 2009). For instance, the release to the public of the largest set of military intelligence by a serving US soldier Bradley/ Chelsea Manning. The action amounted to a violation of Espionage Act and was imprisoned. In the year 2013 Edward Snowden, an intelligence contractor released to media houses classified documents belonging to the National Security Agency. He expose the mass surveillance conducted by the US government against sovereign states and fueled the debate over state secretes and national security(Wilson, 2012). [...]
[...] It is imperative for the judiciary to be independent in order to deliberate on the issues before it and preserve the adversarial process. All litigants including the government should be equal, and fairness should be the norm and not the exception (Wilson, 2012). Conclusion The concept of state secrets vis a vis civil liberties has been discussed in the essay. There are circumstances where the state can apply its privileged position to deny the public some information. On the other hand, the citizens are entitled to information and also protection of their civil rights by government agencies. [...]
[...] The government should not be left to overreach prerogative by over classifying information so as to shield itself from the opposition and the citizens. Numerous case have been discussed that support both state privilege and civil liberties. References Friedman, L. M. (2007). Guarding life's dark secrets: Legal and social controls over reputation, propriety, and privacy. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. Wilson, E. M. (2012). The dual state: Parapolitics, Carl Schmitt and the national security complex. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate. [...]
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