09/18/2010 03:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Keeping Torture a Secret

The proposed burning of the Quran in Florida and opposition to the construction of a Muslim mosque (community center) in New York are both viewed in relation to the effect such actions will have upon the Muslim world. I happen to believe that the burning of the Quran and opposition to the mosque are both wrong as a matter of principle, irrespective of how those events are perceived elsewhere. In my view, they are also wrong because of the symbols they create at a time when our goal is peaceful understanding and reconciliation. On the other hand, I do not think that we should succumb to irrational threats and retaliation. Muslims properly contend that we should not condemn the entire religion for the acts of a few radicals, but that is exactly what some are doing based upon the threat to burn the Quran by some crackpot and a handful of supporters -- hardly something that can be attributed to all Americans.

But these are subjects that have been discussed ad infinitum. I preface with these remarks because I suspect that the government's opposition and success in blocking all suits for compensation based upon illegal rendition and torture of innocent persons is premised more on foreign perception rather than on the professed protection of "state secrets" and "national security." No suit for damages based on such rendition and torture has been permitted to proceed. Rather than craft the decisions to allow the matters to proceed and exclude claimed "state secrets" from evidence, the claims have been totally dismissed. The effect of these decisions is to deny relief to torture victims and protect their torturers.

I do not doubt that in the course of such trials matters may arise whose disclosure would reveal information the government wishes to keep secret. But I fear that the blanket and outright dismissal of the claims is an effort to protect the guilty and avoid the revelation of conduct that would inflame the outside world. The idea that the horror and degradation that these innocent persons have suffered should go unpunished and uncompensated on the basis that some information "may" be revealed that the government wishes to keep secret is a travesty. Revealing what has occurred may well inflame others outside the United States; concealing it should inflame all of us within it.