Outside editorial: The Rendition Case: No further review

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It's not often that the Supreme Court inadvertently promotes a Hollywood movie with one of its rulings. But the soon-to-open Jake Gyllenhaal thriller "Rendition" just got a big boost from the nation's highest court.

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Too bad the unintended promo comes at the expense of America's standing as a voice for justice in the world community.

What's worse, the court's action should raise a concern for every citizen that the guarantee of freedom enshrined in the Constitution is being eroded by the Bush administration's antiterror tactics.

The legal controversy involved an appeal by a German of Lebanese descent, who claims he was seized by federal agents and tortured after being whisked off to Afghanistan. The practice is known as "extraordinary rendition," and it's an affront to the core values of justice that this nation holds dear.

The upcoming film dramatizes rendition in a harsh light, judging by the movie trailer. Defenders of the practice, though, say rendition has produced useful intelligence in fighting terrorism.

In the case of German Khaled el-Masri, however, it turns out he was mistaken for a terrorism suspect with a similar name. Whoops.

Masri ran into an official wall of silence when he sued in U.S. courts over his five months' captivity in a secret prison. As with other challenges to its terror tactics, the Bush administration argued that the case had to be thrown out because it involved state secrets.

Lower courts agreed and the Supreme Court on Oct. 9 handed President Bush a troubling victory by refusing to review his national security claim.

It's a scary prospect that federal agents could do anything and be shielded from scrutiny with such a defense for secrecy. This cannot be the last word from the court - or soon we'll be left with just the Hollywood version of our constitutional rights.

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