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Illinois Judge Refuses to Dismiss Rumsfeld Lawsuit
U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen ruled on Friday that two men accusing former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of complicity in their alleged torture in Iraq may proceed with one count of their lawsuit.
Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, the two contractors making the allegations, worked for Iraqi owned security firm Shield Group Security in Iraq in 2005 and were detained by the U.S. Military on suspicion that their firm was selling arms to insurgents. According to their suit, in 2006 they witnessed employees at Shield Group Security make payments to “certain Iraqi Sheikhs” and deal arms using methods not approved by the U.S. Military. Vance says he made contact with an FBI official in Chicago and voiced his concerns. Vance and Ertel supposedly also met with U.S. government officials at the embassy in Baghdad to discuss the matter.
Vance and Ertel’s employer became suspicious of their activities and coworkers seized the two men’s identity cards, which they needed to enter the “Green Zone”. The men allege that they locked themselves in a room, called the U.S. Embassy for assistance and were removed from the premises by U.S. Forces and taken into custody. The men were taken to two military camps in the Baghdad area. Ertel was released after a month but Vance remained in custody for over two months. While held in custody both men allege that they were tortured which included being subjected to sleep deprivation, long hours of interrogation, blasting music, threats, hunger and “walling” .
Vance and Ertel allege that Donald Rumsfeld personally took part in the decision making process that deemed such methods acceptable for use by the U.S. military.
Rumsfeld filed a motion to dismiss the case but the judge allowed one count of the lawsuit to proceed. Anderson believes the two men pleaded enough details to implicate Rumsfeld. Mike Kanovitz of Chicago firm Loevy & Loevy is representing Vance and Ertel and called the ruling “historic” according to The Legal Times Blog. The Department of Justice had no comment on the case except to say they were reviewing the decision.
The Legal Times Blog raised the question of how Judge Anderson came to his ruling in light of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, a Supreme Court decision that made it more difficult to sue high ranking government officials. The Legal Times quotes an excerpt of the Judge’s opinion,
“Iqbal undoubtedly requires vigilance on our part to ensure that claims which do not state a plausible claim for relief are not allowed to occupy the time of high-ranking government officials. It is not, however, a categorical bar on claims against these officials. When a plaintiff presents well-pleaded factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief above a speculative level, that plaintiff is entitled to have his claim survive a motion to dismiss even if one of the defendants is a high-ranking government official, the pleading requirements that apply to any defendant and any plaintiff are the same ones. And even though it requires a high amount of specific evidence for holding him liable, there’s enough evidence in the complaint that he did authorize this type of violence to be sufficient to force him to answer for these actions in a court of law.”