CIA Torture Victims Launch Lawsuit Against Psychologist Masterminds Behind the Program

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

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This is interesting.

From the Guardian:

Survivors of CIA torture have sued the contractor psychologists who designed one of the most infamous programs of the post-9/11 era.

In an extraordinary step, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen now face a federal lawsuit for their role in convincing the CIA to subject terror suspects to mock drowning, painful bodily contortions, sleep and dietary deprivation and other methods long rejected by much of the world as torture.

For more on Mitchell and Jessen, I suggest reading: Revelations from the Torture Report – CIA Lies, Nazi Methods and the $81 Million No-Bid Torture Contract.

In practice, CIA torture meant disappearances, mock executions, anal penetration performed under cover of “rehydration” and at least one man who froze to death, according to a landmark Senate report last year. Versions of the techniques migrated from the CIA’s undocumented prisons, known as black sites, to US military usage at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib in Iraq

On behalf of torture survivors Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, as well as a representative of the estate of Gul Rahman – who froze to death in a CIA black site in Afghanistan – the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the suit against Mitchell and Jessen on Tuesday in a federal court in Washington state, where the two currently reside. They seek compensatory damages of at least $75,000.

$75,000? That sounds like banker justice.

The suit calls the torture program a “joint criminal enterprise” and a “war crime” in which the CIA, Mitchell and Jessen colluded and from which Mitchell and Jessen financially profited. 

They profited a heck of a lot more than $75k, as you will see later.

Although numerous US government investigations have pierced the veneer of secrecy around the torture program, the program’s government architects have faced no legal reprisal. A Justice Department inquiry ended in 2012 without prosecutions. The new lawsuit, aimed not at government officials but the contractors Mitchell and Jessen, aims to break the trend. 

“This case is about ensuring that the people behind the torture program are held accountable so history doesn’t repeat itself,” Steven Watt, one of the ACLU attorneys representing the three ex-detainees, told the Guardian. 

This is America in 2015. Nobody rich or powerful is ever held accountable. No matter what. Which is why the country is now little more than an oligarch controlled, neo-feudal Banana Republic.

Of course, the only person who was actually punished for CIA torture, was the guy who blew the whistle on it. See: Have You Heard of John Kiriakou?

“Impunity for torture sends the dangerous message to US and foreign officials that there will be no consequences for future abuses.

Salim, a Tanzanian fisherman, said in a video published by the Guardian that flashbacks from his ordeal in CIA custody are a permanent part of his life. After five years in CIA and then US military custody, Salim’s captors released him unceremoniously from Bagram in August 2008, presenting him with a memo stating that the US determined him not to pose a threat to the US. 

“You can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you can’t smell,” said Salim, who says his CIA captors chained his arms and legs to a metal hoop in his cell that forced him into a squatting position so uncomfortable it prevented him from sleeping. Like other detainees, Salim was doused in ice-cold water and then wrapped in a freezing plastic sheet. According to the lawsuit, Salim hid painkillers he was given in order to hoard a dose strong enough for an ultimately unsuccessful suicide attempt.

Famously, Jessen and Mitchell, former instructors in the military’s Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) program to counter torture, revised torture techniques from the SERE training and proposed to use them on CIA detainees. 

They faced their first test case in the spring of 2002, after the CIA captured Abu Zubaydah, then thought to be a senior member of al-Qaida, and took him to Thailand. Although Zubaydah spoke openly with his FBI interrogators who sought to establish a rapport with him, Mitchell cabled the CIA’s Counterrorism Center “nearly every day” for permission to torture him. 

What a guy.

CIA personnel, with Mitchell overseeing, waterboarded Zubaydah 83 times in the span of a month. Eventually, according to the Senate intelligence committee’s report – which gives Mitchell and Jessen the pseudonyms Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar – Zubaydah would submit to torture after hearing his captors snap their fingers twice. They forced him into “confinement boxes”, one the size of a coffin and the other just two and a half feet square and 21 inches deep.

Now missing an eye, Zubaydah is still detained at Guantánamo Bay, although the CIA no longer believes he is a member of al-Qaida. The Senate intelligence committee concluded the torture techniques did not produce any useful intelligence; the CIA’s official position as of 2014 is that the question is unanswerable. But the 2002 test case convinced the CIA, supported by the Bush White House, of the value of torture.

A Spokane-based company the two founded, Mitchell and Jessen Associates, would secure $75m from the CIA in contracts, in addition to a further $6.1m from the agency for legal expenses in the event of criminal or civil action stemming from the contract. Although Barack Obama banned CIA torture by executive order on the second day of his presidency, the CIA continued to cover the company’s legal bills until 2012. Mitchell and Jessen themselves each received more than $1m from their contracts. 

Must be nice.

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