Federal Judge Says Rumsfeld Can't Duck Trial

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Federal Judge Wayne Andersen in Chicago refused Friday to drop a suit against former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld filed by Americans who were working as civilians in Iraq in 2006 when, they allege, they were locked up and tortured by American forces — Donald Vance for three months and Nathan Ertel for one.

"Plaintiffs are not now, and never have been, terrorists or enemies of the United States," says Vance and Ertel's suit against Rumsfeld and the United States government. "To the best of their knowledge, Plaintiffs were never even legitimately accused of being the same."

Nevertheless, the suit continues, they were held and abused, and "officials at the highest levels of of the United States government have endorsed just such abuses. In particular, Defendant Donald Rumsfeld devised policies that permit the use of torture in interrogations and the detention of Americans without just grounds and effectively without access to a court to seek habeas." These policies authorized a "series of measures...crafted in secret and without resort to the democratic process [that] effectively suspended certain very basic human and civil rights for those whom the officials target."

Attorney Mike Kanovitz of the Chicago firm Loevy & Loevy, which represents the plaintiffs, says Vance, who's from Chicago, and Ertel were employees of Shield Group Security and were reporting back to the FBI in Chicago about illegal payments they believed were being made by the security firm to Iraqi sheiks. Kanovitz said American officials in Iraq weren't interested in what the two men had to say, so Vance got in touch with the FBI during a visit home.

Their suit says SGS became suspicious and eventually they were arrested by American military forces, placed in solitary confinement, and interrogated repeatedly by military personnel using physically and mentally coercive tactics authorized by Rumsfeld. These included "threats of violence and actual violence, sleep deprivation and alteration, extremes of temperature, extremes of sounds, light manipulation, threats of indefinite detention, denial of food, denial of water, denial of needed medical care, yelling, prolonged, solitary confinement, incommunicado detention, falsified allegations and other psychologically-disruptive and injurious techniques."

They were never charged and eventually they were released.

Andersen's ground-breaking decision reads in part:

"Plaintiffs…allege that in August 2003 Rumsfeld sent Major Geoffrey Miller to Iraq to review the United States prison system....Plaintiffs claim that Rumsfeld informed Major Miller that his mission was to 'gitmo-ize' Camp Cropper [where Vance and Ertel were held].These allegations, if true, would substantiate plaintiffs' claim that Rumsfeld was aware of the direct impact that his newly approved treatment methods were having on detainees in Iraq…. Based on these allegations, we conclude that plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts to survive Rumsfeld's motion to dismiss on account of a lack of personal involvement…. Accepting at this stage that these treatment methods were in fact used, we conclude that a court might plausibly determine that the conditions of confinement were torturous."

Andersen's ruling doesn't mean Rumsfeld will wind up in a Chicago courtroom trying to explain away torture. It means he might.

Here, courtesy of the ChicagoIndyMedia Web site, is a link to a PDF of Andersen's opinion.

And here's a link to a PDF of Vance and Ertel's complaint.

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