A JUDGE is allowing an army veteran who says he was imprisoned unjustly and tortured by the US military in Iraq to sue former Defense Secretary Donald 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 US 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 US on annual leave when he was abducted by the US 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 US 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 lawyer 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 sheikh while helping collect intelligence in Iraq.
“The US 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 US Justice Department and argued that the former Deafness secretary cannot be sued personally for official conduct.
But US District Judge James Gwin rejected those arguments and said US citizens are protected by the Constitution at home or abroad during wartime.
The case before Gwin involves a man who went to Iraq in December 2004 to work with an American-owned Deafness 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 US ally and later led a revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaeda 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 a lawyer.
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 always denied any wrongdoing.