Many of Iqbal's claims are consistent with the findings of an April 2003 report by the Department of Justice's Inspector General. The report criticized officials for establishing a system that punished detainees and treated them as guilty until proven innocent. The report said many Muslim men were held under harsh conditions on baseless leads that the FBI took months to investigate and disprove.
The suit alleges systematic mistreatment, including being held 23 hours a day in a solitary confinement cell with the windows painted over and the lights always on. Iqbal was given minimal bedding. The air conditioning was run in the winter, the heat turned on in the summer. He was subjected to daily strip and body-cavity searches. The guards once forced him to submit to three consecutive body-cavity searches in a row while still in the same room. When he protested a fourth search, he was punched and kicked by the guards, the suit alleges. By the time he was released, he'd lost 40 pounds.
Lawyers for Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Mueller are challenging their inclusion in the lawsuit, saying they had no personal involvement in the alleged mistreatment and no knowledge of Iqbal.
Iqbal's lawyers say that Ashcroft was a "principal architect" of the harsh detention policy and that Mueller was instrumental in adopting and carrying out the policy.
"The policy of holding post-September 11th detainees in highly restrictive conditions of confinement until they were 'cleared' by the FBI was approved by defendants Ashcroft and Mueller," Iqbal's lawsuit says.
Ashcroft and others "knew of, condoned, and willfully and maliciously agreed to subject [Iqbal and others] to these conditions of confinement as a matter of policy, solely on account of their religion, race, and/or national origin and for no legitimate penological interest," the suit says.