Public Citizen filed an amicus brief on behalf of 14 public interest and 9/11 family groups urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to reinstate the case of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who was fired after reporting to superiors numerous instances of wrongdoing in her unit.
Edmonds challenged her retaliatory dismissal by filing suit in federal court, but her case was dismissed when the government invoked the “state secrets privilege” — a common law evidentiary privilege that allows the government to withhold information on the grounds that it could compromise national security. Edmonds appealed the dismissal of her case.
In the amicus brief, we argue that the government overreached in claiming that the entire case had to be dismissed and that the district court erred by failing to scrutinize the basis of the government’s privilege claim to determine whether an accommodation was possible that would have permitted Edmonds to prove her case without compromising national security information. Further, we argue that the timing and breadth of the government’s privilege claim suggests that it was used as a litigation tactic to deprive Edmonds of her day in court, rather than to protect legitimate secrets. The privilege was also used to stop Edmonds from testifying in a case brought by the families of those killed on Sept. 11, 2001, against Saudi individuals and others who allegedly financed al Qaeda. Much of the information that the government claims is secret was released to Congress and the public before the government asserted the state secrets privilege.
In an unpublished decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the district court’s opinion dismissing Edmonds’ claims. Public Citizen also represented the Project On Government Oversight in a related case.