Donald Rumsfeld Torture Lawsuit Fizzles, Again

Dees Illustration

Dan Froomkin
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — An American Civil Liberties Union lawyer trying to revive a torture lawsuit against former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and three high-ranking Army officers made no headway in a hearing Thursday before a three-member panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The biggest obstacle facing the ACLU: The full circuit court previously ruled in a similar case that Rumsfeld and others are immune from such suits because they were acting in their capacity as government officials.

Cecillia Wang, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, gamely argued that while the court was precluded by that precedent from actually finding in favor of her plaintiffs, it should still rule on the issue of whether their rights were violated.

Unlike an earlier case which involved non-citizens tortured at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, this case, Ali v. Rumsfeld, was filed on behalf of nine Iraqi and Afghan men subjected to torture and abuse under Rumsfeld’s command in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The suit was dismissed in March 2007 by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas A. Hogan, whose ruling nevertheless described the case as “lamentable” and “appalling.” Hogan wrote that “the facts alleged in the complaint stand as an indictment of the humanity with which the United States treats its detainees.”

Wang pleaded with the three-judge panel to take a stand. She said the court should determine that the defendants, in “setting a policy to encourage and condone torture, and tolerating torture” had clearly violated the Constitution. She lambasted the defendants for “claiming that there are no limits to the executive branch’s power.”

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