On Monday, a US federal appeals court refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two U.S. citizens against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and unnamed others for developing, authorizing and using “enhanced interrogation techniques” against detainees in Iraq.
Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel were working for a private U.S. government contractor, Shield Group Security, in 2006 when they witnessed the sale of U.S. government weapons to Iraqi rebel groups for money and alcohol. Having been asked to become unpaid FBI informants, their cover was then blown, and the company retaliated. By revoking their credentials to enter Iraq’s so-called Green Zone, they were effectively barred access to the safest part of the country. Shortly thereafter, they were arrested and detained by U.S. troops.
Both men were then moved to Camp Cropper, where they say they were subjected to physical and psychological torture at the hands of U.S. forces. Vance was held for three months, Ertel for six weeks. The two men were subjected to extreme sleep deprivation, interrogated for hours at a time, kept in a very cold cell, denied food and water for long periods. They were eventually released, and never charged with any crime.
On Thursday, Donald Vance was interviewed on Democracy Now! about his ordeal and the case he has filed against Donald Rumsfeld, which he hopes will now move forward after Monday’s federal court ruling:
Democracy Now! also spoke with Andrea Prasow, the senior counsel in the Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program at Human Rights Watch. She says that “this case is incredibly significant” since it demonstrates:
“the significant role that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld played in personally authorizing the torture not only of the plaintiffs, as they allege, but of hundreds, if not thousands, of other detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo.”
In reply to the question of what message she thinks this case sends to whistleblowers in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and around the world, Prasow replied:
“That’s a difficult question. I certainly hope that it doesn’t deter anyone from coming forward with allegations of misconduct or illegal behavior. And I do think that the President’s rejection of torture and his executive order that closed the CIA prisons as soon as he took office, I think those were very incredibly important statements about U.S. policy going forward. But as I said before, the U.S. can’t move forward completely without looking backwards, without examining what happened in the past, why it happened, and holding people accountable.”
Vance also says he’s “under the firm, absolute firm belief that these programs are still ongoing”, and when asked whether, in light of what had happened to him, he would encourage other whistleblowers to come forward, he replied:
“Absolutely. I am imploring any civilian operating in any war zone or anywhere in the world to—absolutely, if you’re seeing something illegal happening, please talk to the authorities and come forward. I mean, we don’t have a long history of doing our very best at protecting our whistleblowers, but to this very day, I’m actually glad that I—what I did—of what I did. And I would do it again.”
Click here to read a full transcript of the interview.
Click here to read more on the same story at BBC News.