WASHINGTON - The United States Navy said it had asserted the "state secrets" privilege in a lawsuit by environmental groups, a move to keep the military from being forced to disclose classified information about the use of sonar believed to injure whales.
Navy Secretary Donald Winter, in a court filing submitted yesterday, said disclosure of the information requested by plaintiffs "could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to national security."
The privilege, if upheld, renders information unavailable for litigation. It can be challenged, although the Government often succeeds in asserting the protection. "It can be challenged and we intend to challenge it," said Joel Reynolds, lawyer for the Natural Resources Defence Council which brought the lawsuit. Environmental groups say sonar used in training and testing violates environmental laws and injures and kills marine mammals.