The ACLU and Human Rights First jointly filed suit against U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Mar. 1.  --  The suit zeroes in on Rumsfeld's Dec. 2, 2002, order authorizing new interrogation techniques for detainees in the "war on terror" and seeks benefits for eight victims, four from Iraq and four from Afghanistan, all of whom are ready to come to the U.S. to testify, Reuters reported Tuesday.[1]  --  AP quoted the ACLU's Lucas Guttentag, lead counsel in the suit, who said that Rumsfeld "gives lip service to being responsible, but has not been held accountable . . . and the victims have not been compensated."[2]  --  AP's Pauline Jelinek added that the suit "was filed in federal court in Chicago because Rumsfeld's home state is Illinois.  It seeks an undetermined amount of compensation and asks for a finding that Rumsfeld violated the Constitution and Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment."  --  The ACLU sent to members a two-minute film and asked them to write to the attorney general to ask that an independent counsel be appointed.[3]  --  Eight months ago the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that post-9/11 events had "doubled the rolls of the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington over the past two years," from 10,000 to nearly 20,000.  --  In its May 13, 2004, statement, UFPPC went further than the ACLU and called for investigation of the role of the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense, and the attorney general in this and related matters.  --  The Western Washington antiwar group called for "investigations [that] may show that the administration has deliberately violated the law, the Constitution, and international covenants and conventions to which the United States is a signatory.  . . . If investigations conclude that there is substantial evidence of [the authorization of torture of prisoners], then we believe that impeachment proceedings against the President, Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General of the United States are in order, as provided for by Article II, Section IV of the Constitution of the United States:  "The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."  --  UFPPC delegations have met twice with Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA 9) to discuss these demands, first on Jun. 4 and again on Aug. 25....



Top News


By Alan Elsner

March 1, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Two U.S. human rights groups on Tuesday sued Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying he first authorized and then failed to stop torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First filed suit in federal district court in Rumsfeld's home state of Illinois on behalf of eight former detainees who said they were severely tortured. All eight were subsequently released without being charged.

"Secretary Rumsfeld bears direct and ultimate responsibility for this descent into horror by personally authorizing unlawful interrogation techniques and by abdicating his legal duty to stop torture," said Lucas Guttentag, lead counsel in the case.

The Pentagon said it was studying the complaint and had no immediate comment.

The ACLU filed similar complaints against three other senior officers: Col. Thomas Pappas, Gen. Janis Karpinski and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez on behalf of prisoners mistreated at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

The suit against Rumsfeld focuses on an order he signed on Dec. 2, 2002 which authorized new interrogation techniques for detainees in the "war on terror" being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The techniques included "stress positions," hooding, 20-hour interrogations, removal of clothing, exploiting phobias to induce stress, prolonged isolation, and sensory deprivation.

Later, when evidence became overwhelming that prisoners were being tortured, Rumsfeld turned a blind eye and allowed the mistreatment to proceed, the suit alleges.

"Secretary Rumsfeld knew full well that his orders were causing torture and he knew that torture was occurring on a widespread basis and he did not stop it," Guttentag said.


The plaintiffs want the court to declare Rumsfeld's actions unconstitutional and a violation of U.S. and international law and are also seeking monetary damages for their injuries. All eight are willing to come to the United States to testify.

The plaintiffs -- four Afghan citizens and four Iraqis -- allege treatment that included beatings, being cut with knives, sexual abuse and humiliation, being locked in coffin-like boxes for extended periods, being deprived of food and water and threatened with execution and being hung upside down for hours on end.

Arkan Mohammed Ali, a 26-year-old Iraqi held for a year from June 2003 to 2004, alleges that U.S. personnel twice beat him unconscious, used a large knife to repeatedly stab and slice his forearm, burned and shocked him with a small metal device, locked him naked for several days in a small wooden box, urinated on him and made death threats against him.

Mehboob Ahmad, a 35-year-old Afghan citizen held for five months in 2003, said he was probed anally, hung upside down from the ceiling by a chain and hung by his arms for extended periods. Soldiers once forced him to drink 12 half-liter bottles of water in five minutes.

The mistreatment of prisoners became an international scandal after the appearance last year of pictures showing sexual abuse of men -- naked and bound -- at Abu Ghraib. The administration led by President Bush says only a handful of low-ranking personnel were involved.

Dozens of other cases have been brought against soldiers for abusing detainees elsewhere in Iraq and in Afghanistan but previous efforts to charge senior officers and administration officials have not proceeded very far.

An August 2004 report by a panel appointed by Rumsfeld stated that he and other top Pentagon leaders contributed to an environment in which prisoners suffered sadistic abuse at Abu Ghraib.




By Pauline Jelinek

** Defense chief faulted for changing policies guiding detainee treatment; Pentagon disputes claims **

Associated Press
March 1, 2005,1,3284013.story

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is responsible for torture and abuse of prisoners held by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan and should compensate the victims, a lawsuit contended today.

The suit was filed on behalf of four Iraqis and four Afghans who allege they suffered severe and repeated beatings, cutting with knives, sexual humiliation and assault, mock executions, death threats, and restraint in excruciating positions.

They were held in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003 and 2004, were never charged with crimes and have been released, according to officials at the groups that filed the suit, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First.

The suit is the latest against Rumsfeld, military commanders and civilian contractors since the disclosure last spring of photographs taken at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

The Pentagon said in a statement that military officials "vigorously dispute any assertion or implication that the Department of Defense approved of, sanctioned, or condoned as a matter of policy detainee abuse."

The suit contends that Rumsfeld is to blame for the abuses because he changed long-held interrogation policies and practices designed to prohibit torture.

The groups said the Pentagon chief later ignored overwhelming evidence that the policies had resulted in abuse of prisoners.

Pentagon officials have said the scandal has stained America's honor, endangered U.S. soldiers around the world and inflamed the global fight against terrorism. Charges have been filed against a number of lower-level soldiers.

Rumsfeld has apologized for the scandal and says he twice last year offered President Bush his resignation.

"He gives lip service to being responsible, but has not been held accountable . . . and the victims have not been compensated," said Lucas Guttentag, lead counsel in the suit and director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project.

The suit was filed in federal court in Chicago because Rumsfeld's home state is Illinois. It seeks an undetermined amount of compensation and asks for a finding that Rumsfeld violated the Constitution and Geneva Conventions on prisoner treatment.

At the same time, the ACLU filed three similar suits in other states against Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the commander in Iraq, and Col. Thomas Pappas and Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who were commanders at Abu Ghraib. The complaints were filed in federal courts in South Carolina, Texas and Connecticut.


[Message sent to ACLU members, Mar. 1, 2005]

Dear Friend,

This morning, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit charging that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody. The lawsuit seeks a court declaration that Secretary Rumsfeld violated the U.S. Constitution and international laws.

Officials at the highest levels of government bear the ultimate responsibility for the actions of the U.S. military. I urge you to join us in our call for accountability by viewing a two-minute Web movie and calling on the Attorney General to appoint an outside special counsel to investigate how our government's torture policies took such a misguided path.

This landmark lawsuit was filed by a coalition of human rights advocates on behalf of eight former detainees who were incarcerated in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, where they were subjected to torture and other cruel and degrading treatment. None of the men was ever charged with a crime.

Because I know you care about the guiding values of justice and liberty that define American life, I'm writing to ask you join us in seeking to hold our leaders accountable for the torture carried out in our name.

Watch our Web movie: The New Face of America?

Send a message to Attorney General Gonzales urging him to appoint a special counsel to investigate high-level violations of the War Crimes Act and other federal laws forbidding torture.

Because of the support of people like you, the ACLU was able to carry out the groundbreaking Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits that have brought to light much of what we - and the world - know about the torture practices of our government and the Bush Administration.

To preserve our country's international reputation as a beacon of freedom and to protect our own soldiers from similar mistreatment, our leaders must be held accountable.

I am never more proud to lead the ACLU than at times like these when our voices are raised together to demand justice for those who cannot demand it for themselves. Thank you for being part of that work.


Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director, ACLU


What the ACLU lawsuit against Rumsfeld says:

--Widespread abuses did not spring from the spontaneous acts of a couple of soldiers. Secretary Rumsfeld personally authorized the military to abandon our nation's historic prohibition against torture and cruel and degrading treatment.

--Secretary Rumsfeld and other high-ranking military officials failed to stop the torture and degrading treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo even after credible reports of abuses began to emerge in the media and in military documents.

--Although Secretary Rumsfeld knew of wrongdoing, and even ordered investigations into the torture of prisoners, he knowingly limited those investigations in a way that blocked high-ranking civilian or military officials, including himself, from being held accountable.