Vance said he was interrogated for lengthy periods, denied necessary medical care and repeatedly threatened with “you’ll never leave here again.”
A Chicago man who worked for an Iraqi contractor alleged Monday he was imprisoned in a U.S. military compound in Baghdad, held incommunicado for more than three months and subjected to interrogation techniques “tantamount to torture.”
In a federal lawsuit filed in Chicago, Donald Vance, 29, a Navy veteran, charged that his constitutional rights were trampled by American military interrogators even though they knew he was a U.S. citizen.
“I couldn’t believe they did this to any human being,” said Vance in a telephone interview.
Vance was taken into custody without charges in April. While imprisoned at Camp Cropper near Baghdad International Airport, Vance said, he was held in solitary confinement in a continuously lit, windowless and extremely cold cell as loud heavy metal and country music blared nonstop.
The lawsuit charged that Vance, a security consultant for a private Iraqi firm at the time, was denied basic constitutional rights to due process as if he were a suspected terrorist or enemy combatant.
“That’s why they did it to him – because they could,” said Jon Loevy, one of Vance’s lawyers. “If they could do it to Mr. Vance, they could do it to anybody.”
The suit sought unspecified damages and named Donald Rumsfeld, who stepped down last week as U.S. secretary of defense, as its lone defendant for his role in overseeing the military prison system in Iraq.
Cynthia Smith, a Defense Department spokeswoman in Washington, said it is Pentagon policy to decline to comment on pending litigation.
Vance said he and co-worker Nathan Ertel suspected their Iraqi employer, Shield Group Security, of paying off local sheiks for influence in obtaining government contracts.
The two blew the whistle, becoming informants for the FBI in Chicago and U.S. officials in Iraq. But when they felt their lives had been threatened by their employer, they gathered up weapons and arranged for U.S. military forces to rescue them.
“We did an Alamo,” said Vance in reference to their barricading themselves in a room in their employer’s compound until the military rescue.
But after being debriefed at the U.S. Embassy, the two were awakened in the middle of the night, arrested, handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to the first of two U.S. miliary installations, according to the lawsuit.
“Certain low-level bureaucrats in the federal government apparently came to believe, quite incorrectly, that Mr. Vance might have more information, and they set out to extract it from him,” the suit said.
Vance said military authorities at Camp Cropper knew he was a U.S. citizen because he had his passport and other identification with him.