Last Friday, on March 5, 2010, a U.S. judge Judge Wayne R. Anderson (N.D. Ill.) allowed a suit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to go forward (in legalese: the case survived a motion to dismiss). The complaint, which alleges that Rumsfeld authorized torture against U.S. citizens, survived despite the defendant’s vigorous claims of immunity (see our earlier blog entry for more discussion of immunity issues).
According to the Complaint, in 2005, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, both American citizens, traveled to Iraq to work for an Iraqi security firm, Shield Group Security (SGS). After suspecting that SGS was paying off local sheiks for influence in obtaining government contracts, Vance and Ertel informed the FBI in Chicago and U.S. officials in Iraq. When SGS officials threatened their lives for revealing company information, Vance and Ertel sought protection from the U.S. military. However, after interrogating Vance and Ertel at the US Embassy, U.S. officials imprisoned them and refused to grant them habeas corpus petitions.
The plaintiffs allege that once they were in custody at a U.S. military base, officials detained these two American citizens as “persons of interest” by invoking authority Rumsfeld had previously granted. Vance was detained for three months and Ertel was detained for over a month without charges and forced to live in extremely unsanitary conditions. During this time, the plaintiffs claim that U.S. officials used tortuous interrogation techniques to attempt to solicit confessions. Some of these techniques included the use of solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme cold and loud music, and other similarly cruel tactics.
Eventually, both American citizens were released without charges and allowed to return to the U.S. On December 18, 2006, plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit against Rumsfeld for authorizing the alleged constitutional violations they endured during their detention.
Prepared by International Justice Project Intern Daniel Cousineau.