James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen are psychologists who took in almost $85 million in CIA contracts to design and oversee torture programs used on CIA prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and around the world. The contracts ran from from 2001 to 2010. The ACLU is representing Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman, three of the prisoners who were tortured at CIA black sites. Rahman was murdered by his torturers and the ACLU is representing his estate.
Neither Jessen nor Mitchell had any experience with interrogation, and they based their techniques on some experiments with dog training and techniques used by Chinese Communists. There is no evidence that their torture, which included anal rape and multiple forms of simulated execution, produced any useful intelligence.
Alas, neither of the conspirators ever faced the criminal charges that were threatened when the evidence of torture and their role in it first surfaced. But it did spark controversy in the American Psychological Association, which eventually added a ban on abetting torture to its code of professional conduct. The eventual release of the CIA torture report sparked fresh outrage among medical and mental-health professionals at the conduct of their colleagues who collaborated with the CIA.
If you want to have your stomach turned and your faith in humanity challenged, revisit this first-person account of Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, who endured torture at a CIA black site.
The material facts of the case, says ACLU attorney Steven Watt, are all established in extensive publicly-available material: the declassified executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation, an independent investigation into the American Psychological Association's involvement in the torture program, Mitchell's own public statements, and several other studies.
"We are able to bring this lawsuit because all the details are in government reports that substantiate it," he told The Intercept.
For Watt, who was the first person to tell Gul Rahman's family he had died — they have never received official notification — the case is about achieving justice for his clients, and drawing attention to the real purpose of Mitchell and Jessen's work with the CIA.
"There's much talk about interrogation" when it comes to Mitchell and Jessen, he says. "But it wasn't about gathering information for them. It was about breaking [the inmates] down, it was about torturing them. That was their true intent."
Former U.S. Detainees Sue Psychologists Responsible For CIA Torture Program [Jenna McLaughlin/The Intercept]