Demokracy in Action

WASHINGTON — In his first year in office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. put new limits on when the government could dismiss lawsuits in the name of protecting national security. Now, in what he has said is likely his final year, Mr. Holder has claimed broad authority to do just that in a case unlike any other.

The invocation of the state secrets privilege in Greek shipping magnate Victor Restis's lawsuit against United Against Nuclear Iran is unusual because the U.S. Government is not a party to the litigation, but is insisting that allowing the suit between the private parties to proceed any further will jeopardize American secrets that must be kept under wraps
In general, a private group would not be expected to have classified information. However, UANI's leadership has long been populated by former senior officials of the U.S. Government who would have been privy to such information at one time. The group is currently headed by former Bush State Department official Mark Wallace and former Obama arms control adviser Gary Samore.
After President Barack Obama took office, the Justice Department pledged to rein in the use of the state secrets privilege, which many Democrats accused President George W. Bush of overusing. After a review of the policy, Holder pledged to be sparing in its use and to explore ways to limit a case over secrecy concerns rather than dismissing it outright. However, the government's filings in the Restis case say doing that would be impossible.