US courts must stop shielding government surveillance programs from accountability

Imagine the government has searched your home without a warrant or probable cause, rifling through your files, your bedroom dresser, your diary. You sue, arguing that the public record shows it violated your fourth amendment rights. The government claims that it has a defense, but that its defense is secret. The court dismisses the case.

That’s precisely what the federal government has increasingly said it can do in cases related to national security – under the so-called “state secret privilege”. It can violate constitutional rights, and then defeat any effort at accountability by claiming that its defense is secret – without even showing its evidence to a court behind closed doors.