Apparently, this woman's father was killed in an aircraft accident in 1949. His wife (the woman's mother) tried to get details about the crash from the government at the time, but they claimed the "state secrets" privilege: essentially saying that information related to the crash couldn't be released as it would compromise national security.
Eventually, almost 60 years later, the daughter was able to get information on the crash:
"The reports of her father's crash arrived in the mail 10 days later.Well, now that she knew it was negligence, she decided to sue the government for fraud: and rightly so:
Rather than military secrets, the accident reports detailed embarrassing and incriminating evidence of mistakes and negligence by the flight crew and mechanics that led to the 1948 crash, she says. 'As I discovered more and more about it, I got more and more angry,' Loether says. 'It didn't have to do with state secrets, it had to do with embarrassment and negligence. You can't look at that accident report and not be overwhelmed by the amount of negligence involved.'"
If this is what we can expect from conservative justices the very notion of accountable government is at stake. If they can hide negligence -- negligence that results in the deaths of citizens -- and get away with it, what can't they do?
In response, Bush administration lawyers denied that anyone had lied in the earlier case. They said government officials had simply adopted a broad reading of state secrets. It was the height of the Cold War, they stressed. Any details about the workings - and failings - of the B-29 aircraft itself might have helped the Soviets piece together important clues about US military capabilities and research.
A federal judge agreed and dismissed the suit. A three-judge federal appeals court panel - including now-Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito - also embraced the Bush administration's broad reading of the state secrets doctrine.
But that wider interpretation seems at odds with the Supreme Court's more focused 1953 opinion. Back then, it upheld the government's position because there was "a reasonable danger that the accident investigation report would contain references to the secret electronic equipment." There was no suggestion that the military secrets at issue in the case related to the B-29.