Prudence on State Secrets Privilege:

Marc Ambinder has an interesting post in which unnamed Obama Administration officials and national security law experts explain the Administration's continued reliance on the state secrets privilege in the Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan case.

Officials decided that it would be imprudent to reverse course so abruptly because they realized they didn't yet have a full picture of the intelligence methods and secrets that underlay the privilege's assertions, because the privilege might correctly protect a state secret, and because the domino effect of retracting it could harm legitimate cases, both civil and criminal, that are already in progress.

"If you decide today precipitously to waive this privilege, you can't get it back, an administration official said. "If you decide to assert it, you can always retract it in the future." . . .

The officials who spoke would not discuss the particulars of the case. They did agree to discuss the various cross-pressures that the administration finds itself facing.

One is that many Obama administration legal experts believe that the privilege was recklessly abused during the past six years in particular, and that its application became political or punitive. To that end, Holder directed his staff to review all current assertions of privilege -- a review that won't be completed for several more weeks. . . .

The state secrets privilege has been bureaucratically calcified to an extent that worries many experts, with the Department of Justice making the decision about what's harmful more and more often, and the CIA and other intelligence agencies having less of a say. There is evidence that the privilege has always been used in this way, but that the Bush Administration's invocations were subject to more (legitimate) watchdogging from the press and outside interests. Some Obama administration officials believe that the privilege's assertion is legitimate, but that the Supreme Court, in the case which gave rise to the privilege, was much too deferential to the government.