An American contractor who claims he was imprisoned and tortured by the U.S. military in Iraq can sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld personally for damages, the Associated Press reported.
The man, whose name is withheld from court records, is a U.S. Army veteran who worked as a translator in Anbar province. The U.S. suspected him of helping Iraqi enemies acquire classified information and helping anti-coalition forces enter Iraq, the AP says, though he was never charged with a crime and says he never broke the law.
The man’s federal lawsuit claims that Rumsfeld personally approved torture on a case-by-case basis and did not allow access to U.S. courts. His attorney, Mike Kanovitz of Chicago, says the U.S. military did not want his client to reveal information he’d acquired in Iraq.
“The U.S. government wasn’t ready for the rest of the world to know about it, so they basically put him on ice,” Kanovitz told the AP. “If you’ve got unchecked power over the citizens, why not use it?”
The Obama administration’s Justice Department has represented Rumsfeld and argued he cannot be sued personally for official conduct because, it argues, judges cannot review wartime decisions. The administration also argues the case could reveal sensitive information, the AP said.
U.S. District Judge James Gwin, a Bill Clinton appointee, said U.S. citizens retain their constitutional protections during wartime.
“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,” Gwin wrote in a Tuesday ruling.