Lawsuit Against Boeing Unit Will Go Forward

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Earlier this week, a lawsuit which alleges that a division of Boeing Co. helped United States operatives to abduct terrorism suspects and send them abroad to be tortured was revived by a federal appeals court.

Named in the suit is Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a unit of Boeing. The company is accused of providing flight planning and logistical support to a program of the Central Intelligence Agency called the “extraordinary rendition” program.

Extraordinary rendition is a name used for the extrajudicial transfer of a person from one sovereign state to another, usually for purposes of interrogation. In this program, the United States will move a suspected terrorist or other criminal to a country which is known to use especially harsh interrogation techniques, even torture. Critics of the extraordinary rendition program call it “torture by proxy,” and the knowing transfer of a person to a country which engages in torture is illegal under United States law.

The case against Jeppesen was brought by five men who claim to have been abducted by U.S. operatives, sent to other countries, and subsequently tortured. They are seeking monetary damages from the company, although the amount is unspecified.

Both the Bush and Obama administrations have warned that the lawsuit, should it go forward, will threaten national security. Last year, a federal trial judge dismissed the case, agreeing that the subject of the matter was a state secret.

Earlier this week, however, San Francisco’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this dismissal, saying that the case was still in the early stages and should not be dismissed at this point. It also stated that the CIA and other governmental departments should not be immune to judicial scrutiny. The appeals court did allow for specific pieces of evidence in the case to be protected, however, as state secrets.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the five men bringing suit. “Our clients, who are among the hundreds of victims of torture under the Bush administration, have waited for years just to get a foot in the courthouse door,” said Ben Wizner, an attorney with the ACLU.

Spokepersons for both Jeppesen and the U.S. Justice Department said that they were reviewing the decision and had no comment.

 

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