A close U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week was good news for high-level government policymakers. The 5-4 decision in the case of Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani Muslim who claimed he was mistreated after being arrested with other Muslims in New York City following the 9/11 attacks, cleared former attorney general John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Iqbal was charged with fraud stemming from problems with his identification papers. He said he was subjected to harsher treatment because of his race and religion and eventually was deported to Pakistan. The court majority said Iqbal didn’t present enough facts early on in his case to prove his treatment directly resulted from policies created by Ashcroft and Mueller.
The ruling suggests claimants will have to do more than allege generic civil rights violations to create legal liability for top government officials. Anything less would have had a chilling effect on top officials, especially those trying to keep the country safe from terrorists.