Court green-lights suit against Rumsfeld alleging torture of two Americans in Iraq

August 8, 2011

City Room and the Associated Press

(AP/Maya Alleruzzo, File)
Detainees perform their daily prayers at the U.S. detention facility at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, Iraq.

A federal appeals court says two Americans who worked for an Iraqi contracting firm can move forward with a lawsuit that accuses former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of being responsible for U.S. forces allegedly torturing them.

The ruling Monday from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago a rejects arguments that Rumsfeld should be immune from such lawsuits for work performed as a Cabinet secretary.

Chicagoan Donald Vance and his colleague Nathan Ertel claim they were each tortured in 2006 after blowing the whistle on alleged illegal activities by the contracting company that employed them.  Vance, a Navy veteran, claims he and Ertel were forcebly detained for weeks at Camp Cropper, a U.S. Army security detention facility in Baghdad, without being charged with any crime or being allowed to speak with an attorney.  

Both men say they were subjected to sleep deprivation, blasting music, hunger and various threats during their incarceration.  The lawsuit describes such practices as torture and alleges Rumsfeld personally took part in approving the methods for use by the military in Iraq.

Vance and Ertel were eventually released, and their story was subsequently featured in an extensive report on WBEZ's Eight Forty-Eight.