A Federal Judge has ruled that a lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by an Army veteran claiming he was tortured while in U.S. military custody in Iraq will be permitted to move forward. The 50-year-old veteran was working for an American contracting company as a translator for U.S. Marines in Iraq and was taken into custody right before he was scheduled to return home to the U.S.
The man claims his family was never notified and he was never charged with a crime or told while he was being held. He further alleges that he was repeatedly tortured until he was released in August of 2006, after nine months of imprisonment, without any explanation regarding his detainment. In response, government officials have stated that the detainment was predicated upon suspicions that he was helping to provide the enemy with classified information and was aiding anti-coalition forces with their efforts to get into Iraq. The original lawsuit was filed in 2008, two years after the man’s release. The Obama Administration has asserted that a former defense secretary cannot be sued personally for actions undertaken in the course of his official duties. This position appears to accord with prior Supreme Court rulings requiring that high-ranking officials must be tied directly to a violation of constitutional rights and must also have clearly understood that their actions were in violation of those rights.
Despite the high bar set by prior Supreme Court precedence, U.S. District Judge James Gwin has ruled that the case can proceed. In his ruling, Judge Gwin stated that “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,” This is the second time that a federal judge has allowed a U.S. citizen to sue former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld in a personal capacity..