CIA 'torture' psychologists to stand trial


AFP•August 8, 2017

Washington (AFP) - Two psychologists who helped design the CIA's post-9/11 
detainee interrogation program will stand trial in September for promoting the 
use of torture methods like water-boarding, starvation and chaining prisoners 
in extreme stress positions.

Federal judges in Washington state late Monday ordered a lawsuit on behalf of 
three former detainees -- one of whom died in a CIA prison following harsh 
interrogation -- to go to a jury trial, rejecting efforts to force a settlement 
and prevent a full hearing of the case.

The lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the 
ex-detainees, will be the first involving the torture program to go to trial.

The government has headed off previous efforts, citing what is said is a need 
to protect sensitive intelligence.

The case targets psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who were 
recruited by the CIA in 2002 to design and help conduct interrogations of 
war-on-terror suspects captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The two were paid $80 million for their work, which included helping 
interrogate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 
attacks by Al-Qaeda, and Abu Zubaydah, another top Qaeda official.

The ACLU suit alleges that Jessen and Mitchell were responsible for, and 
profited financially from, the illegal torture of Tanzanian Suleiman Abdullah 
Salim, Libyan Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Afghani Gul Rahman.

The first two were later freed after years of imprisonment, while Rahman died 
of hypothermia in a CIA prison cell in November 2002, after what the ACLU says 
was two weeks of "brutal torture".

"This is a historic day for our clients and all who seek accountability for 
torture," said ACLU attorney Dror Ladin in a statement.

"The court's ruling means that for the first time, individuals responsible for 
the brutal and unlawful CIA torture program will face meaningful legal 
accountability for what they did. Our clients have waited a long time for 

The court rejected the psychologists' arguments that they were not responsible 
for all of the CIA's interrogation activities and had nothing to do with the 
interrogations of two of the men.

They also claimed they were not responsible for specific decisions to use 
so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" in the specific cases of the 
three, but only broadly supplied the CIA with a list of methods to choose from.

Defending that act as legal, they cited a post-World War II war trial which 
cleared a technician involved in supplying poison Zyklon B gas to Nazi 
concentration camps of culpability in mass murder.

They also claimed that the decision to use such techniques was made by the CIA 
and approved by the Department of Justice, and that they cannot therefore be 
held responsible.
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