ACLU Settles Lawsuit Against Architects of CIA Torture Program

James Mitchell (left) and John “Bruce” Jensen. Photo courtesy ACLU.

SPOKANE, Wash. (CN) – The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday settled its lawsuit against two psychologists hired by the CIA to develop a torture program for terrorism suspects.

The ACLU brought the lawsuit on behalf of three detainees who were tortured at American military sites for information regarding terrorist groups. One of the men, Gul Rahman, died of hypothermia after being short chained to a wall in a diaper.

The suit claimed the psychologists who designed the torture program, Dr. James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jensen, were liable for the pain and suffering the detainees experienced when CIA handlers using the psychologists’ torture program.

The terms and amount of the settlement is confidential. A trial in Spokane, Washington, federal court had been set to begin Sept. 5.

The ACLU called the settlement a win because pretrial proceedings allowed information about torture programs and the role of CIA contractors to become public.

“This is a historic victory for our clients and the rule of law,” ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said in a statement. “This outcome shows that there are consequences for torture and that survivors can and will hold those responsible for torture accountable. It is a clear warning for anyone who thinks they can torture with impunity.”

The ACLU noted this case was the first to go forward in the U.S. courts, as civil lawsuits related to intelligence or military operations are usually dismissed because they may reveal state secrets. In the course of the ACLU suit, documents related to torture programs were released and CIA officials were ordered to give depositions in relation to the torture program.

As part of the settlement, Mitchell and Jessen acknowledge that they worked with the CIA to develop a program for the CIA that contemplated the use of specific coercive methods to interrogate certain detainees. They also acknowledge that plaintiffs Gul Rahman, Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud were subjected to coercive methods in the CIA program which resulted in pain and suffering for them and their families.

However, the parties agree the abuses of Salim and Soud occurred without the psychologists’ knowledge or consent and they were not responsible for those actions. Under the settlement, Mitchell and Jessen were unaware of the specific abuses that ultimately caused Rahman’s death and are not responsible for those actions.

Neither the Justice Department nor the psychologists attorneys at the firm Blank Rome responded to a request for comment by press time.

 

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