A reliance on the state-secrets privilege is enabling the government to draw a cover over its mistakes so that no one can fully understand when it is at fault. Like all human institutions, governments make errors and injure innocent individuals. Why not admit error and demonstrate integrity, honesty and fairness, and at the same time build public trust?

The administration of President George W. Bush invoked the state-secrets privilege repeatedly to prevent private litigants from challenging executive actions that violated statutes, treaties and the Constitution. The lawsuits included warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency and the practice of “extraordinary rendition” that sent suspects to other countries for interrogation and torture. In case after case, federal judges deferred to executive branch warnings that allowing a case to proceed would do grave danger to the nation.

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