Anna Dozier Headshot

Americans know all too well about the devastating events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, that was behind it. Since then, there has been nonstop news and updates on the group and the people who participate. The war on terror was announced by President Bush who then launched the war against Al-Qaeda and started a series of military campaigns.

We, then, went through a presidential change, and the hunt for Osama bin Laden was finally completed. On May 2, 2011 SEAL Team Six completed their mission in Pakistan by killing Osama bin Laden and burying his body at sea. While this severely damaged Al-Qaeda, there are still members of this group trying to cause harm. One of those people is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, more commonly known by Abu Zubaydah.

Zubaydah is well informed about the past and future plans of Al-Qaeda against the United States. He is believed to have been a senior lieutenant of Al-Qaeda and was captured in March of 2002. In 2010, he filed a criminal report that he was allegedly held at a CIA site in Poland and was subjected to “enhanced interrogation” and wanted any Polish nationals that participated in his mistreatment to be held accountable.

Prosecutors from Poland pushed the United States to release information about Zubaydah’s alleged time at the Poland CIA site. The United States continued to deny such requests as it threatened national security to release information that confirms or denies the existence of a CIA site in Poland.

Zubaydah kept pushing, as he wanted the district court to order the release of information, and he wanted to serve subpoenas to former CIA contractors. The district court disagreed with the government that the location of a CIA site was protected by the state's secrets privilege, however, and still dismissed Zubaydah. He appealed and the Ninth Circuit stated that most were protected by state secret privilege, but the existence of the CIA facility and the conditions and treatment of Zubaydah could be released.

This case was then argued in the Supreme Court on Oct. 6, 2021, and the Justices released their opinion on March 3, 2022. It was their mission to decide whether or not the Ninth Circuit erred in their decision that the release of such information was not covered under state secrets privilege and did not threaten national security.

The Supreme Court released their opinion stating that “the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the state secrets privilege did not apply to information that could confirm or deny the existence of a CIA detention site in Poland.”

The opinion, delivered by Justice Breyer, concluded that to prevent information that could put national security at risk, the state's secrets privilege should apply. As long as the government has a legitimate claim to withhold information, the courts should oblige. We were also informed by the Supreme Court that Zubaydah’s reason for the location to be revealed is “close to non-existent,” and in no way would benefit his complaint. The opinion continued, saying that the release of the conditions and treatment of Zubaydah would confirm or deny the existence of the CIA site in Poland, so no further discovery could continue in any respect to Zubaydah’s complaint.

The Supreme Court’s opinion has done well in protecting the United States’ security for post 9/11 black sites. Information pertaining to the whereabouts or existence of a certain CIA site is now safe. “United States v. Husayn,” aka “Zubaydah” can now be used as a precedent to upcoming threats to our government’s state secrets.

Anna Dozier is a junior at UT this year studying political science and philosophy. She can be reached at adozier4@vols.utk.edu.

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