U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan threw out a lawsuit brought on behalf of nine former prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan . He said Rumsfeld cannot be held personally responsible for actions taken in connection with his government job.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First had argued that Rumsfeld and top military officials disregarded warnings about the abuse and authorized the use of illegal interrogation tactics that violated the constitutional and human rights of prisoners.
"This is a lamentable case," Hogan began his 58-page opinion Tuesday.
"Despite the horrifying torture allegations," Hogan said, he could find no case law supporting the lawsuit, which he previously had described as unprecedented.
Allowing the case to go forward, Hogan said in December, might subject government officials to all sorts of political lawsuits. Even Osama bin Laden could sue, Hogan said, claiming two American presidents threatened to have him murdered.
Had the Rumsfeld lawsuit been allowed to go forward, attorneys for the ACLU might have been able to force the Pentagon to disclose what officials knew about abuses such as those at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and what was done to stop it.
The Justice Department had no immediate comment.
Karpinski, whose Army Reserve unit was in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison, was demoted and is the highest-ranking officer punished in the scandal. Sanchez, who commanded U.S. forces in Iraq, retired from the Army and said his career was a casualty of the prison scandal.