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Tortured vet cleared to sue Rumsfeld over abuse

By NEDRA PICKLER
August 4, 2011

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (AP Photo/Dennis Cook, File)

A judge is allowing an Army veteran who says he was imprisoned unjustly and tortured by the U.S. military in Iraq to sue former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld personally for damages.

The veteran’s identity is withheld in court filings, but he worked for an American contracting company as a translator for the Marines in the volatile Anbar province before being detained for nine months at Camp Cropper, a U.S. military facility near the Baghdad airport dedicated to holding “high-value” detainees.

The government says he was suspected of helping get classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces enter Iraq. But he was never charged with a crime and says he never broke the law.

Lawyers for the man, who is in his 50s, say he was preparing to come home to the United States on annual leave when he was abducted by the U.S. military and held without justification while his family knew nothing about his whereabouts or even whether he was still alive.

Court papers filed on his behalf say he was repeatedly abused, then suddenly released without explanation in August 2006. Two years later, he filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington arguing that Rumsfeld personally approved torturous interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis and controlled his detention without access to courts in violation of his constitutional rights.

Chicago attorney Mike Kanovitz, who is representing the plaintiff, says it appears the military wanted to keep his client behind bars so he couldn’t tell anyone about an important contact he made with a leading sheik while helping collect intelligence in Iraq.

“The U.S. government wasn’t ready for the rest of the world to know about it, so they basically put him on ice,” Kanovitz said in a telephone interview. “If you’ve got unchecked power over the citizens, why not use it?”

The Obama administration has represented Rumsfeld through the Justice Department and argued that the former defense secretary cannot be sued personally for official conduct. The Justice Department also argued that a judge cannot review wartime decisions that are the constitutional responsibility of Congress and the president. And the department said the case could disclose sensitive information and distract from the war effort, and said the threat of liability would impede future military decisions.

But U.S. District Judge James Gwin rejected those arguments and said U.S. citizens are protected by the Constitution at home or abroad during wartime.

“The court finds no convincing reason that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad,” Gwin wrote in a ruling issued Tuesday.

“The stakes in holding detainees at Camp Cropper may have been high, but one purpose of the constitutional limitations on interrogation techniques and conditions of confinement even domestically is to strike a balance between government objectives and individual rights even when the stakes are high,” the judge ruled.

In many other cases brought by foreign detainees, judges have dismissed torture claims made against U.S. officials for their personal involvement in decisions over prisoner treatment. But this is the second time a federal judge has allowed U.S. citizens to sue Rumsfeld personally.

U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen in Illinois last year said two other Americans who worked in Iraq as contractors and were held at Camp Cropper, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, can pursue claims that they were tortured using Rumsfeld-approved methods after they alleged illegal activities by their company. Rumsfeld is appealing that ruling, which Gwin cited.

The Supreme Court sets a high bar for suing high-ranking officials, requiring that they be tied directly to a violation of constitutional rights and must have clearly understood their actions crossed that line.

The case before Gwin involves a man who went to Iraq in December 2004 to work with an American-owned defense contracting firm. He was assigned as an Arabic translator for Marines gathering intelligence in Anbar. He says he was the first American to open direct talks with Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, who became an important U.S. ally and later led a revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida before being killed by a bomb.

In November 2005, when he was to go on home leave, Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents questioned him about his work, refusing his requests for representation by his employer, the Marines or an attorney. The Justice Department says he was told he was suspected of helping provide classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces attempting to cross from Syria into Iraq.

He says he refused to answer questions because of concern about confidentiality, and the agents handcuffed and blindfolded him, kicked him in the back and threatened to shoot him if he tried to escape. He was then transferred to an unidentified location for three days before being flown to Camp Cropper.

For his first three months at Camp Cropper he says he was held incommunicado in solitary confinement with a hole in the ground for a toilet. He says he was then moved to cells holding terrorist suspects hostile to the United States who were told about his work for the military, leading to physical attacks by his cellmates that left him in constant fear for his life.

He claims guards tortured him by repeatedly choking him, exposing him to extreme cold and continuous artificial light, blindfolding and hooding him, waking him by banging on a door or slamming a window when he tried to sleep and blasting music into his cell at “intolerably loud volumes.”

He says he always denied any wrongdoing and truthfully answered questions but interrogators continued to threaten him. Both sides say a detainee status board in December 2005 determined he was a threat to the multinational forces in Iraq and authorized his continued detention, but he says he was not allowed to see most of the evidence against him. Documents the government filed with the court only say he is suspected of a crime, without providing details.

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Follow Nedra Pickler’s coverage of legal affairs at http://twitter.com/nedrapickler

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12 Responses to Tortured vet cleared to sue Rumsfeld over abuse

  1. Sandune

    August 4, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Even though this action is thought to be illegal, it needs to be exposed. The Bush/Rumsfeld actions during President Bush’s Administration were a disgrace to America. Knowing the investment made in the war by the Vice President during this same Administration, profits were handed out to organizations approved by Pat Robertson and his Evangelicals. Vice President Cheney worked out plans for his Haliburton group, Blackwater, and many other money makers for his group. Hell yes! sue the pants off of all them.

    They destroyed our American values, allowed our trade agreements to remove our jobs and embarrassed many of us all over the world. They are also our law makers who protected themselves from all litigation.

    • woody188

      August 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm

      The same abuses continue and have even been expanded under Obama. That’s why he defends the former administration so vigorously. Torture is now promoted by the US Military at all levels. So much for the moral high ground.

      • Danny Adams

        August 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm

        Exactly, Woody. And I think Obama isn’t just defending Rumsfeld hard specifically because of his expansion, but also because he doesn’t want to set a wider precedent of prosecuting executive officials.

  2. Carl Nemo

    August 4, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    People need to get it in their heads that this nation was commandeered by “pirate capitalist, freebooters” ; I.E., the Bushistas and their running dog accomplices. The damage they’ve caused to this nation is almost irreparable.

    Obama & Co. are nothing but plug-in modules wearing Democratic ‘sheeps’ clothing, but continuing the process defined by the PNAC manifesto for turning our America in their AmeriKa, a fascist state with a population of abject, desperate slaves. Seemingly they’ve succeeded in spades.

    I’ll supply a link to a complex flow chart showing the Bush clan’s byzantine connections into the very fabric of our society and the world at large.

    Students of political history of the past 40 years will recognize many of the names tied to this family of freebooters.

    http://www.stewwebb.com/Bush%20Crime%20Family%20Flow%20Chart.HTML

    With reference to past and continuing criminally disposed shenanigans in high office:

    *****

    “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” ? …Sir Walter Scott, extract from epic poem “Marmion” circa 1808

    *****

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. egc52556

    August 4, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    War is hell and we can’t expect to apply civilian standards to wartime.

    Except this crosses the line of military standards too. If there was an imminent threat to release these guys, then they should have been detained in a humane fashion, with torture. This was not a foxhole where a captain needed to make a life or death decision; this happened on base where the guys were preparing to leave the country.

    If Rumsfeld had personal knowledge and approval of these cases, then he should face the music.

    • egc52556

      August 4, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      “withOUT” torture, that is. Wish I could edit my posts here.

  4. Carl Nemo

    August 4, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    When I gaze upon the photo of Don Rumsfeld supplied with this article, my head spins when I reconcile such against my knowledge base concerning this corporatist-government disposed mattoid.

    Although many folks simply link him to his sojourn as Bush’s SOD, Don goes back a long way to the Nixon~Ford era along with his ‘accomplishments’ as CEO of G.D. Searle & Co. a company that focuses pharmaceuticals, agricultural products and animal health for which he used his influence and connections to launch a known carcinogenic artificial sweetener upon the world, known to us all as “aspartame”, better known by it’s market name of “NutriSweet”

    http://servantofthelight.com/content/view/166/201/

    If Don could knowlingly launch a carcinogen upon the world in the form of an artificial sweetener, then he’s capable of anything. He, like Henry Kissinger have only evaded prosecution due to their connections in high places and having served the interests of the shadowy oligarchs that own this nation lock, stock and barrel over the years.

    *****

    In 1971 Nixon was recorded saying about Rumsfeld “at least Rummy is tough enough” and “He’s a ruthless little bastard. You can be sure of that.”[21][22][23][24][25] …Richard M. Nixon extract from Don Rumsfeld’s Wiki bio

    *****

    With such an ‘endorsement’ from ‘Tricky Dick” should there be any questions folks concerning Don’s character…? / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Carl Nemo

      August 4, 2011 at 11:20 pm

      Note: I don’t endorse “The Servant of the LIght” site that supplies the link narrative concerning aspartame and Rumsfeld’s career as an influence peddler. Rense.com had a similar expose’ too, but many readers on this site wince when they see anything from Rense although in many cases it does supply excellent narrative summations concerning a given subject.

      Carl Nemo **==

  5. kishind

    August 5, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Well, the suspension of habeas corpus is part of the Patriot Act. It’s still a wonder to me that no judge has struck it down as unconstitutional.

    I want my land of the free. I want my [bleep]ing promised country. This government is not protecting my rights to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. The contract has been broken, and they will not set it aright.

    • b mcclellan

      August 7, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      The appointed Judge is as invulnerable as his placer
      til he deploys the law in an all encompassing eraser
      of undiscriminating judicial nature.

      By then it’s too late.

  6. griff

    August 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    • b mcclellan

      August 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      A tear
      not many left to spare
      Arakis Wells
      Dammed Spice..