Suing Donald RumsfeldPosted: August 4, 2011
There’s been little justice for innocent folks scooped up as enemy combatants in the never-ending, costly War on Terror. Who could forget those pictures of US marines dragging naked men around by dog leashes? Instead of opening the sordid affair to daylight, the Obama administration adopted the posture of putting it all behind us. This includes defending Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld is one of the architects of enhanced interrogation techniques. He recently has been out on the talking head circuit with a book and an image boosting tour. News today says that he may have retired by he can’t run away from his decisions as Secretary of Defense. A judge has allowed an US Army veteran to sue Donald Rumsfeld over torture. The veteran claims that he was tortured and unjustly imprisoned. The man was a translator and is unnamed in the law suit.
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 U.S. 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 that the threat of liability would impede future military decisions.
At the heart of the suit are personal damages claim against Rumsfeld for approving interrogation methods of US army at Camp Cropper.
District judge James Gwin rejected those arguments and said US citizens were protected by the constitution at home or abroad during wartime. “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,” he ruled.
In many other cases brought by foreign detainees, judges have dismissed torture claims against US officials for their personal involvement in decisions over prisoner treatment. But this is the second time a federal judge has allowed a US citizen to sue Rumsfeld personally.
District judge Wayne Andersen in Illinois last year ruled that Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, Americans who worked in Iraq as contractors and were held at Camp Cropper, could pursue claims that they were tortured using Rumsfeld-approved methods after they suspected the security firm they worked for of engaging in illegal activities.
The US supreme court sets a high bar for suing high-ranking officials, requiring they be tied directly to a violation of constitutional rights and must have clearly understood their actions crossed that line.
There may be little chance for justice for all the victims of the enhanced interrogation program. I am sure this will again stir up the hornet’s nest of how fascist methods are justified in the face of unmitigated acts of terrorism. I’m not a lawyer so I can’t really speak for the merits of the case itself. I do, however, feel that Benjamin Franklin said it best.
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
BTW, I hope you noticed that Mittens Romney has hired the torture lawyer Steven Bradbury along with the nasty Robert Bork as campaign advisers. Romney also went to Harvard Law School. Haven’t we had enough Harvard idiots already for one century?