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Iqbal and Bad Apples

15 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2013  

Michael C. Dorf

Cornell Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 1, 2010


In addition to its important implications for federal civil procedure, the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal put the imprimatur of the Supreme Court on a troubling narrative of the excesses carried out by the Bush Administration in the name of fighting terrorism. In this "few bad-apples narrative," harsh treatment of detainees - especially in the immediate wake of the attacks of September 11th, but also years later in such places as Afghanistan, Iraq, the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and elsewhere - was the work of a small number of relatively low-ranking military and civilian officials who went beyond the limits of the law. The actions of these few bad apples, the narrative goes, were regrettable but not the result of official policy. Actions and statements by both the Bush and Obama Administrations promulgated the few bad-apples narrative. Careful parsing of both the complaint and the Supreme Court opinion in Iqbal shows that in dismissing allegations that high-ranking officials in the Bush Justice Department ordered discriminatory abuse of detainees, the Court accepted that flawed narrative.

Keywords: Ashcroft v. Iqbal, terrorism, Bush administration, Justice Department, Setember 11th, unconstitutional military order, detainee

Suggested Citation

Dorf, Michael C., Iqbal and Bad Apples (January 1, 2010). Lewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 14, No. 217, 2010. Available at SSRN:

Michael C. Dorf (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States


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