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Supreme Court wrestles with eroding secrecy around U.S. torture tactics

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SCOTUS wrestlies with eroding secrecy arount torture tactics

The Supreme Court wrestled Wednesday with the role of U.S. courts in protecting the last remnants of secrecy around the increasingly well-known fact that the CIA tortured terrorism suspects almost two decades ago in the early years of the war on terror.

The case before the justices, involving the alleged torture of al Qaeda operative and Guantanamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah while he was held in Poland in 2002 and 2003, presents fundamental questions about whether and when judges can override executive branch decisions on matters related to national security and so-called “state secrets.”

However, during more than an hour of oral arguments Wednesday morning, it became clear that many of the justices have little appetite for grappling with those questions in the Zubaydah case and instead are looking for ways to resolve it without squaring up to those choices.

While Zubaydah is pressing for testimony from former CIA contractors James Mitchell and John Jessen that could aid a Polish investigation into his treatment in that country, Justice Neil Gorsuch suggested he had happened upon what he viewed as a simpler answer: have Zubaydah himself testify about what happened to him during his detention in Poland.

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