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In 1948, three civilian engineers were killed in an Air Force plane crash while testing secret navigational equipment. The widows filed suit, but the Air Force, at the dawn of the Cold War, refused to hand over accident reports and witness statements, claiming the documents contained classified information that would threaten national security. In 1953 the Supreme Court sided with the Air Force in United States v. Reynolds, formally recognizing the "state secrets" privilege, a legal precedent since used to conceal conduct, withhold documents, block troublesome litigation, and, most recently, detain terror suspects without due process. A half century later, the government revealed the "top-secret" information--there were no national security secrets, but rather a shocking chronicle of negligence. This book tells the story of this shameful incident, and the dangerous consequences of this historic cover-up: the violation of civil liberties and the abuse of constitutional protections.--From publisher description.