(Washington, D.C.) — Yesterday, a federal court in Washington, DC upheld the validity of a constitutional rights claim against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for his role in the torturing and illegal imprisonment of a U.S. citizen who was working as a translator in Iraq.

The decision was released publicly this morning by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The case, John Doe v. Donald Rumsfeld, et al, (No. 08-cv-1902 CKK), is available here.

Out of many suits brought against Rumsfeld over the torture of detainees in Iraq, this is only the second case that has been allowed to proceed. The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is co-counsel in this suit, along with the Chicago-based civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy (The other case that is proceeding is Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel v. Donald Rumsfeld, et al (06 C 6964), which is also being handled by Loevy & Loevy).

“John Doe is acting as a whistleblower for all American contractors working overseas,” stated GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack. “This case will prove that Cabinet officials don’t enjoy carte blanche to treat American citizens however they wish.”

“This case affects tens of thousands of American citizens who work on behalf of the United States in warzones,” said Attorney Mike Kanovitz of Loevy & Loevy. “We are relieved that the courts are going to exercise their constitutional role of judicial review instead of giving the President a blank check when it comes to the fundamental rights of U.S. citizens. There is a clear record showing that Mr. Rumsfeld authorized the use of brutal interrogation techniques that violated our nation’s constitution. Like all Americans, my clients just want a level playing field and a fair jury. Now they his going to get that.”

Last year, a federal court in Chicago held in Vance that two American citizens who were also tortured while detained by U.S. forces in Iraq could bring constitutional claims against Rumsfeld. That decision is currently on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. A decision is expected soon.


In November 2005, while working as a contract translator in Iraq for the Marine Corps, “Doe,” an American citizen, was taken into custody as he was returning home to the United States on leave. Doe alleges that he was kidnapped by U.S. military personnel and whisked away to Camp Cropper, a U.S. military base in Iraq. As the suit notes,

Plaintiff was not held for the purpose of an investigation or prosecution by any branch or component of the Iraqi government. Nor did United States officials charge him with any crime, nor had he committed any crime. Plaintiff was not told when or if he would ever be able to leave. For months, no one in his family could find out if he was even alive. All they knew was that he had disappeared…. Throughout his detention, Plaintiff was held in torturous conditions of confinement, subjected to threats on his life, and denied an attorney or even access to a legitimate court to challenge the government’s actions.

After being held incommunicado for nine months without charges, Doe was released without explanation or an apology.

In John Doe v. Rumsfeld, the plaintiff was granted anonymity by the court due to fears that his relatives could be subject to retaliation.