- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A federal lawsuit alleges war crimes were carried out by James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, the psychologists who designed, implemented and administered the Central Intelligence Agency’s controversial enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists.

Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington on behalf of three individuals who were detained by the CIA at secret detention centers early on during America’s war on terror.

None of the plaintiffs were ever charged with a crime, and one of the three men, Gul Rahman, died as a direct result of the treatment he incurred while held at a secret CIA prison 13 months following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The two surviving plaintiffs — Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud — were imprisoned for five and two years, respectively, and according to the suit were repeatedly subjected to harsh interrogation tactics conducted in hopes of obtaining high value intelligence pertaining to terrorist targets.

Yet while the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded in its highly publicized torture report last year that these methods were largely ineffective with regards to gathering information, the suit brought by the ACLU this week alleges tactics including solitary confinement, repeated beatings, starvation, prolonged sleep deprivation, confinement in coffin-like boxes, water torture and “wall slamming” had lasting effects on the inmates.

“The terrible torture I suffered at the hands of the CIA still haunts me. I still have flashbacks, but I’ve learned to deal with them with a psychologist who tries to help people, not hurt them,” Mr. Salim said in a statement. “This lawsuit is about achieving justice. No person should ever have to endure the horrors that these two men inflicted.”

According to the complaint, the psychologists’ contract with the CIA amounted to the “commission of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, nonconsensual human experimentation and war crimes, all of which violate well-established norms of customary international law.”

“Mitchell and Jessen conspired with the CIA to torture these three men and many others,” Steven Watt, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program, said in a statement. “They claimed that their program was scientifically based, safe and proven, when in fact it was none of those things. The program was unlawful and its methods barbaric. Psychology is a healing profession, but Mitchell and Jessen violated the ethical code of ‘do no harm’ in some of the most abhorrent ways imaginable.”

The two psychologists were contracted by the CIA through their company — Mitchell, Jessen & Associates — beginning in December 2001, according to the suit, and then began crafting interrogation tactics based off of decades-old experiments.

“Defendants theorized that detainees would become passive, compliant, and unable to resist their interrogators’ demands for information” as a result of being subjected to the tactics, the suit alleges.

In the case of Rahman, a suspected Afghan militant, a CIA review conducted in 2002 determined he had died from hypothermia caused “in part from being forced to sit on the bare concrete floor without pants,” aggravated by “dehydration, lack of food and immobility due to ‘short chaining.’ “

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