Tuesday, September 26, 2023
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Ninth Circuit Tosses Vet’s Abu Ghraib Lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The Ninth Circuit dismissed a lawsuit from a veteran claiming his superiors in Iraq drugged him, kidnapped him and had him declared mentally unstable to keep him quiet about abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.

Frank Gregory Ford served in counterintelligence in Iraq in 2003 through the California National Guard. He says he was stationed at Abu Ghraib and witnessed acts of torture and abuse.

He also claims to have seen in April 2003 commandeered Iraqi weapons of mass destruction with markings indicating that they were made in the United States. He further alleges he watched Saddam Hussein's banker, Ali Sa'ad Hassan aka Abu Seger, beaten and killed by CIA interrogators.

In 2012, Ford filed a complaint for torture, false imprisonment and whistleblower protection against several named defendants, including the California National Guard, the United States and several soldiers.

He claims that in June 2003 his superior officer, Victor Artiga, ordered a psychiatrist to change her mental evaluation of Ford. Ford says he was then drugged and strapped down on a stretcher, and flown to Germany without orders.

The district court dismissed his complaint, however, and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed Monday in an unpublished, unanimous decision.

Put simply, the panel wrote, the lower court properly ruled that it did not have subject-matter jurisdiction under the Feres doctrine, which says that the government is not responsible when active-duty soldiers are injured doing something outside the scope of their military duties.

"Ford alleges that he was an active duty service member of the California Army National Guard during the events that formed the basis of his action, and his claims arose incident to his active military service," the three-page decision states. "'[T]he government is not liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act for injuries to servicemen where the injuries arise out of or are in the course of activity incident to service.'"

The Ninth Circuit also found that the district court was correct in determining that Ford's complaint was directed at nonjusticiable military decisions.

Finally, the panel denied several of Ford's motions. It declined to "to remove the United States Attorney's office from this case, to appoint special counsel, and to prevent defendants from using taxpayer money for their defense." It also denied Ford's request to present oral argument.

Mick Harrison of Bloomington, Ind., was listed as an attorney for Ford. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

A representative from the U.S. Attorney's Office said that the office generally does not comment on Ninth Circuit rulings.

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