U.S. Navy Veteran Donald Vance and fellow FBI informant Nathan Ertel were not entitled to sue their U.S. government torturers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh District ruled November 9. Both Vance and Ertel are native-born U.S. citizens.
As private contractors in Iraq in 2006, Vance and Ertel witnessed U.S. soldiers trading bullets for alcohol, and volunteered to become FBI undercover informants to stop the leak of weapons to the Taliban. But while in Iraq, the two men found that their cover had been blown, and were “rescued” by the U.S. military. But the U.S. military then arrested them, and threw them in Camp Cropper in Iraq, where they were tortured. For three months, Vance and Ertel underwent the torture of food deprivation (no food for days at a time), sensory deprivation (isolation), sensory overload (blasting music for days at a time) and walling (repeated slamming into walls when blindfolded). In addition, they were denied access to a lawyer, a habeas corpus hearing, and a trial. The innocent men were released after three months, but their government torturers were never prosecuted.
Vance and Ertel tried to sue then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had personally approved these torture methods. But the appellate court ruled November 9 that despite the fact that these were clearly torture methods approved all the way up the chain of command, "the secretary of defense has more than a million soldiers under his command.... People able to exert domination over others often abuse that power; it is a part of human nature that is very difficult to control."
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Photo of Donald Vance testifying before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee in 2007: AP Images