(CN) – A full panel of the D.C. Circuit dismissed a $50 million lawsuit Tuesday accusing the U.S. government of bombing a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant on the false premise that it produced chemical weapons for Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.
After terrorists bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, the United States responded by launching missiles at two targets: a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and a factory in Sudan believed to be “associated with the bin Ladin (sic) network” and “involved in the production of materials for chemical weapons,” according to then-President Bill Clinton.
The owners of the pharmaceutical plant sued the U.S. government for $50 million, claiming the factory bombing was a mistake, as the plant “was not a chemical weapons facility, was not connected to bin Laden or terrorism, and was not otherwise a danger to public health and safety.”
The plant was Sudan’s largest medicine manufacturer, responsible for producing over half the pharmaceuticals used in Sudan, the owners claimed.
When the press debunked the government’s theory days before the strike, senior administration and intelligence officials backpedaled, the owners claimed. The government issued revised justifications for the attack, conceding that any link between bin Laden and the plant was “indirect.” Government officials told reporters that one of the plant’s owners, Salah El Din Ahmed Mohammed Idris, had purchased the plant on bin Laden’s behalf and acted as bin Laden’s front man or agent in the Sudan.
“All of the justifications for the attack advanced by the United States were based on false factual premises and were offered with reckless disregard of the truth based upon grossly incomplete research and unreasonable analysis of inconclusive intelligence,” the lawsuit claimed.
The district court dismissed the lawsuit because it raised political questions best left to Congress and the executive. A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court affirmed.
The D.C. Circuit agreed to rehear the case before a full nine-judge panel, which upheld dismissal on the same ground.
“Under the political question doctrine, the foreign target of a military strike cannot challenge in court the wisdom of retaliatory military action taken by the United States,” Judge Thomas Griffith wrote. “Despite their efforts to characterize the case differently, that is just what the plaintiffs have asked us to do.”