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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

Whistleblower Can Sue Rumsfeld for Torture

, March 08, 2010

A federal judge in Chicago has dismissed a government motion to throw out a lawsuit brought against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The suit was brought by two American citizens who were subjected to torture in Iraq. The plaintiffs, former security consultants for a private Iraqi firm, were subjected to harsh interrogation techniques at Camp Cropper, near Baghdad.

One of the plaintiffs, Donald Vance, was held for months, without being allowed to communicate his whereabouts to his family. While in custody, he was subjected to “sleep deprivation, long hours of interrogation, blasting music, threats, hunger and a practice known as ‘walling’ in which subjects are blindfolded and walked into walls.”

In dismissing the government motion, the judge wrote that his decision:

"represents a recognition that federal officials may not strip citizens of well settled constitutional protections against mistreatment simply because they are located in a tumultuous foreign setting."

Vance and his co-defendant, Nathan Ertel, were working at the Iraqi-owned Shield Group Security as consultants when they witnessed other employees paying off “certain Iraqi sheikhs” and dealing arms. The two believed these actions were likely not approved by the U.S. military, and eventually met with U.S. Embassy officials in Baghdad to discuss their concerns.

However, the meeting prompted Vance and Ertel’s coworkers to confiscate their Green Zone ID cards. Vance and Ertel were eventually taken to the United States Embassy, where they were then taken into custody.

Despite being American citizens, and trying to blow the whistle on wrongdoing in Iraq, Vance and Ertel suffered the torture described above. Ertel was eventually released after a month, however, Vance was not released until nearly three months had passed.

This case joins two other federal courts that have addressed similar issues. Click here for a copy of the opinion.