In U.S. v. Abu Zubaydah, the Supreme Court has ruled that, in the interest of national security, the “states secrets privilege” allows the government to prevent disclosure of the testimony of two former government contractors from Abu Zubaydah, a terrorism suspect who seeks to use the information in a criminal proceeding abroad.
Zubaydah, who the U.S. government alleges is former Osama bin Laden senior associate, is being held in Guantanamo Bay and was subjected to “enhanced interrogation” techniques in a CIA detention center in Poland.
National security expert Claire Finkelstein, Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, has noted the “irony that this involves Poland, a country that is now on the front lines of the war to preserve democracy in Europe.”
She added, “How can we credibly criticize Putin for committing war crimes in Europe at the same time that we distort the law to cover up our own illegal conduct? How can we expect American civilians, who are signing up with the Ukrainian military in large numbers, to receive humane treatment if taken prisoner, when we torture our own prisoners and then refuse all mechanisms of accountability?”
Finkelstein is urging the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the torture of Zubaydah and others in Polish black sites and encourage the government to waive the state secrets privilege.
As Faculty Director of Penn’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL), Finkelstein, along with a working group comprising a bipartisan group of legal scholars, national security professionals, former military officers, current and former defense attorneys in the commission, and former Guantanamo prosecutors, recently released 13 recommendations for closing Guantanamo Bay.
Finkelstein is also a distinguished research fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). Her current research addresses national security law and policy and democratic governance with a focus on related ethical and rule of law issues.