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State Secrets on Trial

Never before has the Supreme Court dealt with so many cases concerning state secrets at one time.

In November, the court turned down a request to hear the appeal of a former FBI translator whose lawsuit for wrongful dismissal was itself dismissed after the federal government invoked the state secrets privilege.

The privilege allows the government to withhold evidence from courts on the grounds of national security.

On Friday, the Supreme Court meets to consider whether to take the case of a former CIA agent who sued the agency for racial discrimination. The government has invoked the state secrets privilege in his case, and is arguing that the case should be thrown out.

All state secrets claims are based on a 1953 Supreme Court decision that recognized that the government has the right to keep secrets from courts. Now, the case that established the state secrets privilege is itself back on the Supreme Court's doorstep.

That decision arose out of a lawsuit stemming from the crash of a B-29 bomber.

It is coming under question as a widow and the children of three men killed in the crash say the government lied to the Supreme Court in order to obtain the state secrets privilege.

Last month, they filed a petition asking the court to hear their case.

This program aired on January 5, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.

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