Secrecy & Leaks

Ooops! I forgot to Assert the State Secrets Privilege

By Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, August 31, 2011, 4:37 PM

That's what somebody in the government is saying today, on reading this Washington Post story about a contract dispute between two aviation companies involved in CIA renditions--a dispute that seems to involve airing a lot of material in public. Money quote:

In other cases, the government has invoked the “state secrets” privilege to shut down litigation about the CIA program, but the case in Columbia County proceeded uninterrupted in an almost empty courtroom. There were only two witnesses at the bench trial, Richmor President Mahlon Richards and the owner of Sportsflight, Donald Moss.

In a 2009 judgment, largely upheld on appeal earlier this year, Judge Paul Czajka awarded Richmor more than $1 million.

“I kept waiting for [the government] to contact me. I kept thinking, isn’t someone going to come up here and talk to me?” said William F. Ryan, the attorney for Richmor, which manages and books charter flights for aircraft owned by others and operates from four small airports in New York and Connecticut. “No one ever did.”

Moss’s attorney, Jeffrey Heller, also said he was never contacted by any government official.

The more than 1,500 pages of material from the trial and appeals courts files appear to include some sensitive material, such as logs of air-to-ground phone calls made from the plane. These show multiple calls to CIA headquarters, to the cell and home phones of a senior CIA official involved in the rendition program, and to a government contractor, DynCorp, based in Falls Church, that worked for the CIA.