Should Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld Be Prosecuted for His Interrogation Policies?

Post by Randall Ryder

A federal court has allowed a suit against former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to go forward. The suit was initiated by by two former employees of an Iraq owned security firm. The two employees allegedly saw their employers making payments to Iraqi sheiks and reported their accounts to the FBI.

After their report to the FBI, the employees claim they were taken to the US Embassy, questioned, and then transferred to Camp Cropper, located near Baghdad. At the camp, the two men allege they were subjected to harsh interrogation techniques for weeks. Specifically, the men claim they suffered sleep deprivation, food deprivation, and were blindfolded and walked into walls (known as wailing). The men allege that Rumsfeld should be held accountable because he determined the methods were appropriate for military use.

The federal court dismissed two of the three counts, but is allowing the third count, that they were unconstitutionally tortured because of Rumfeld’s policies, to go forward.

There is no doubt that torture is wrong. The Bush and Obama administration have both taken steps to rework US interrogation techniques that were initially approved under Rumsfeld. Those interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, were widely condemned once they were revealed.

This case raises compelling questions. For one, why were such harsh techniques (which were generally approved only enemy combatants) used against American citizens? Didn’t someone realize that these men had Constitution rights? At the same time, it is unclear exactly what rights American citizens have in foreign lands. Here, the extension is a bit clearer, as the citizens were under the control of US military personnel on land that was controlled by the US military. Then again, it is unknown whether the US Supreme Court has ever issued a decision that deals with that specific circumstance. 

Although Rumsfeld may have approved certain interrogation techniques, were they the techniques used? It is unknown how specific the approved procedures were. For example, was sleep deprivation explicitly defined as "depriving sleep for days at a time?" Or was it more general? That may play a critical role in Rumsfeld’s accountability. If the techniques are considered vague, Rumsfeld may argue he had one technique in mind, which was far different from what the actual soldiers did. 

Is this a mess that can be untangled? And should Rumsfeld be held accountable for policies that were approved by legal counsel?

Torture Suit Against Rumsfeld Allowed to Proceed | Wall Street Journal


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