In a series of documents filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the Obama administration’s Department of Justice effectively asked the Court to grant immunity to former President George W. Bush, former Vice-President Richard B. Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for their actions during the Iraq War.
The lawsuit was originally filed by Sundus Shaker Saleh against George W. Bush and members of his administration. Ms. Saleh alleges that those individuals waged a war of aggression and that she was injured as a result.
To protect the former Bush administration officials, the Department of Justice invokes the “Westfall Act” which “provides that where an individual claims that federal employees damaged him or her through their negligent acts or omissions taken within the scope of the office or employment, a suit against the United States shall be the exclusive remedy for that individual’s claims.”
Effectively, what the Justice Department is saying is that because the officials named in the suit were acting in their capacity as members of the administration in waging a “war of aggression” in Iraq, Ms. Saleh cannot sue them and must sue the United States government.
However, Ms. Saleh alleges that Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz were planning a war in Iraq as early as 1998 and were working to see it happen. This would mean that the officials were conceiving the war long before their official term began and complicates the Department of Justice’s claim that they should be granted immunity for their actions within the scope of their service.