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High Court Turns Away CIA Detainee's Case

The Supreme Court turned down a petition today to review the case of a German man secretly taken into custody by the CIA who was denied the ability to sue federal officials because the government claimed it would jeopardize national security.

The court has been critical of the Bush administration's approach in the war on terrorism in a series of cases involving the Guantanamo Bay prison. But the court's denial of this case--which deals with the CIA's extraordinary rendition program--showed the limits of the court's willingness to challenge the government.

Khaled el-Masri was first detained in December 2003 in Macedonia and taken to Afghanistan, where, he said, he was abused by U.S. officials. El-Masri has said he had taken a bus from Germany to Macedonia for vacation when he was detained by Macedonian officials. He was released in May 2004 in Albania and never charged with a crime.

The ACLU took up Masri's case, suing then CIA Director George Tenet and other CIA officials as well as the companies that owned the aircraft that transported Masri to Afghanistan. The government claimed that adjudication of the case would endanger "state secrets" and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit denied Masri's case.

Courts have historically been reluctant to allow cases where the government claims "state secrets," as in the case of Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator who alleged that the agency retaliated against her when she tried to expose wrongdoing.

By Emma Schwartz