Judge in Growler case may consider classified info in chambers

The U.S. Justice Department wants a judge to look at classified material before making a decision on a request for a preliminary injunction on an increase in Navy aircraft flights at a Central Whidbey airfield.

Last week, attorneys representing the Navy filed the motion in U.S. District Court in Seattle for leave to submit a declaration of Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III for the judge to review in camera, or in his chambers.

The attorneys argue that the declaration is necessary for the judge to have a full understanding of the Navy’s opposition to the motion for preliminary injunction filed by the anti-noise group Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, or COER.

“Specifically, the declaration contains classified explanations of the role of the EA-18G Growler in our nation’s military capabilities,” the motion states, “and the potential national security ramifications that can be expected if the Court grants COER’s motion.”

COER is requesting that the levels of aircraft landing practice at Outlying Field Coupeville return to the pre-2019 numbers and remain in place until a final decision is made in the case.

The group joined the state Attorney General’s Office in suing the Navy over an increase in training flights, arguing that the Navy didn’t adequately analyze the impact the increased flights will have. Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is in the process of increasing training flights by 400 percent at the field.

COER is alone in requesting the preliminary injunction. COER argues that it is likely to prevail in the lawsuit, but that the decision is at least six months away. In the meantime, increases in flights are causing “serious and irreparable harm.”

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