WASHINGTON — Five detainees seeking to sue a Boeing subsidiary allegedly involved in secret CIA flights that landed them in foreign torture chambers took their case to the US Supreme Court on Thursday.
The detainees are asking the court to reinstate their claims of compensation for "unlawful abduction, arbitrary detention and torture," which were dismissed by a lower court.
The secret flights were used in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks to transfer "war on terror" suspects to third countries for interrogation, where many said they were imprisoned and tortured.
The five detainees -- an Egyptian, an Italian, a Yemeni, and an Ethiopian and Iraqi who legally reside in Britain -- had sued Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, but the White House said allowing the suit would expose "state secrets."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) first filed the case in May 2007 on behalf of the detainees -- two of whom are still imprisoned in Egypt and Morocco -- in a bid to end the transfers, known as "extraordinary rendition."
The ACLU alleged they were kidnapped, transported to foreign countries between 2001 and 2003 by Jeppesen Dataplan and tortured in the custody of either the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or local security forces.
In April 2009, a smaller panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco backed the plaintiffs and ordered the case to go forward in a victory for those seeking court sanctions against former president George W. Bush's counter-terrorism policies.
But President Barack Obama -- despite distancing himself from such policies -- appealed the ruling to the same court, where a full panel dismissed the case in September.
"To date, not a single victim of the Bush administration's torture program has had his day in a US court," Ben Wizner, Litigation Director of the ACLU National Security Project, said Thursday.
"The government has misused the 'state secrets' privilege to deny justice to torture victims and to shield their torturers from liability," he added.
The Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case in the coming months.