In the aftermath of September 11th, the FBI arrested thousands of Arab Muslim men as part of its investigation into the attacks. One of these men, Javaid Iqbal, was classified as being a "high interest" detainee at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York. Iqbal claims that during his detention he was segregated from the rest of the prison population and mistreated in several ways, including confinement to a cell for 23 hours a day where he had blinding light shone on him constantly and air conditioning pumped into the cell even during the winter months. After being released, Iqbal brought a suit against representatives of the Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons, and FBI alleging 21 violations of his statutory and constitutional rights based on his treatment while confined. These defendants argued that they should be protected from the suit in their official governmental roles through qualified immunity. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York denied the defendants' motion to dismiss and rejected the qualified immunity defense.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's rulings on all counts but one for violation of the right to due process. The Second Circuit noted that the actions taken by the government occurred in the immediate aftermath of September 11th and therefore created a unique context in which Iqbal's claims had to be reviewed. Even with these circumstances, however, the court felt that the qualified immunity defense could protect the government only from the due process claim. The "serious allegations of gross mistreatment" were enough to sustain the remaining counts.
Now, here is the sole issue presented:
Are governmental officers acting in their official capacities protected by the defense of qualified immunity in a claim brought by a former prison inmate, arrested in the immediate aftermath of September 11, alleging gross treatment and violations of his constitutional rights while confined?
Discretionary function immunity, e.g., a qualified immunity afforded to state actors performing tasks within the scope of their employment, will be deemed to be broad enough to shield the officers from liability. While we can go back-n-forth on the merits of the constitutional claim, this is a claim for money damages from someone roughed up. Given that there's no body, then I really think that the unspoken policy of keeping the 9/11 police-state genie in the bottle, without legal scrutiny or accountability, will continue. Esp. with this court. What sayeth the masses?