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Chicago Court Green-Lights Suit Against Donald Rumsfeld

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

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 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 forcibly 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.

Their attorney, Mike Kanovitz, welcomed the ruling, saying the court faced a choice between "protecting the most fundamental rights of American citizens in the difficult context of a war or leaving those rights solely in the hands of politicians and the military."

"It was not an easy choice for the Court to make, but it was the brave and right choice," Kanovitz said in a written statement.

An attorney for Rumsfeld blasted the ruling.

"Having judges second-guess the decisions made by the armed forces halfway around the world is no way to wage a war," David Rivkin, Jr., said in a written statement. "It saps the effectiveness of the military, puts American soldiers at risk, and shackles federal officials who have a constitutional duty to protect America."

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which represents Rumsfeld in the case, declined comment on the ruling.

But Rivkin said he believes the decision will eventually be overturned.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Tags: crime, people