The Seventh Circuit US Court of Appeals today upheld the previous court rulings allowing two Americans who worked as military contractors in Iraq to sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for having them tortured.
The ruling comes just a week after District Judge James Gwim rejected another effort by the Obama Administration to block a lawsuit brought by a third contractor, who had also been tortured as a “high-value” detainee by the US military.
The Obama Administration has been fighting hard to keep such lawsuits from moving forward, making multiple arguments claiming that courts lack jurisdiction to rule on torture of Americans by the US military and warning that the lawsuits were dangerous because they might affect the decisions of future US officials who have to decide whether or not to order American citizens tortured for no reason.
The Gwim case related to an unnamed translator who was summarily detained when his contract ran out to prevent him from returning to the US. Today’s ruling relates to two employees, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, of Shield Group Security.
The two had privately approached the government about possible illegal actions of their employer, and became whistleblowers. They uncovered an illicit program called “Beer for Bullets” in which the company traded US soldiers liquor for extra ammo and weapons, and then sold those on the open market.
When the Shield Group learned of their role as whistleblowers, they had their papers confiscated and were then arrested by the military and taken to Camp Cropper. During their detention they were repeatedly tortured.
The Administration has not commented yet on today’s ruling, but Secretary Rumsfeld’s personal lawyer blasted the ruling as a “blow to the US military,” saying allowing lawsuits by those who were tortured amounted to allowing judges to “second-guess the decisions made by the armed forces.”