The Los Angeles Times offers considerable background on the case, particularly as regards the secrecy defense:
The state secrets rule dates to 1953 with a case involving the crash of a B-29 bomber. When the widows of three crewmen sued and sought the official accident report, the Air Force refused, saying the plane was on a mission to test secret electronics equipment.
The court ruled, in U.S. vs. Reynolds, that the need to protect the nation’s security outweighed the widows’ claim. Recent disclosures show that the justices apparently had been misled. When the accident reports were declassified, they revealed the plane had been poorly maintained but did not contain military secrets.
Since then, the state secrets privilege has been invoked by every president to shield certain evidence from being disclosed in court.
El-Masri was not even in the United States when he was seized. According to the story:
El-Masri was on vacation in the Balkans in 2003 when he was stopped at a border crossing in Macedonia and his passport was taken. He said he was questioned intensely and accused of associating with Islamic radicals.
According to his complaint, he was then blindfolded, taken to an airport and stripped of his clothes by a team of masked men. He said they drugged him and chained him inside an airplane, and he was flown to Afghanistan, where he was held in a CIA-run prison for five months. . . .
Two years ago, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that U.S. officials “admitted this man had been taken erroneously.” In January of this year, German prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents for their roles in the abduction and abuse of El-Masri.
But the Germans have dropped these warrants after the Bush administration indicated it would not cooperate.