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Obama Administration’s use of State Secrets Procedures

October 22, 2009 by
Filed under: Business, Government Contracting 

The Obama Administration announced in September that they will institute a new policy on the State Secrets Procedures. The State Secrets Procedures grants the government permission to withdraw certain pieces of evidence from court cases if the government believes that it will reveal sensitive and classified information to the public.

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memorandum to the Department of Justice about the new policies regarding the State Secrets Procedures, in hopes of attaining higher levels of accountability and transparency within the department. “This policy is an important step toward rebuilding the public’s trust in government’s use of this privilege while recognizing the imperative need to protect national security. It sets out clear procedures that will provide greater accountability and ensure that the state secrets privilege is invoked only when necessary and in the narrowest way possible.”  The need for greater accountability lends from past grievances from critics of the Bush Administration’s use of the State Secrets Procedures in numerous court cases throughout the administrations term.

The reaction to the new policy implementations by the Obama administration have been one of frustration. Many feel that the new procedures for the use are inefficient because they only add more bureaucratic measures without reforming the actual implementation of the measure. However, the Obama administration has claimed that it will only use the State Secrets Procedure in cases of “significant harm” to national security and the administration advocated that they would not use to procedure to cover government wrongdoings and abuses.

One of the critics’ biggest issues with the new policy on State Secret Procedures is the issue of maintaining the system of checks and balances established in the Constitution. Some people worry that the executive branch has invoked too much power over the court system by having the authority to omit certain items of evidence in cases. Critics believe that the courts should be entrusted with sensitive materials and more importantly they must have a check on the power of the executive branch. In order to address this issue, there is a need for legislative reform advocated by Congress.  So far, two pieces of legislation have been introduced in the House and Senate which will address the issues with the State Secrets Protection Act,

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