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Civil Lawsuit Against CIA Psychologists Settled Without Going to Trial

(Wikimedia Commons)

A civil case against two onetime Central Intelligence Agency-contracted psychologists has reached a settlement before going to trial. The psychologists, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, were accused of creating and implementing brutal interrogation methods the CIA used on terrorism suspects.

The civil suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of two men, Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ben Soud, as well as the family of a third man, Gul Rahman, who froze to death in a secret CIA prison.

“Most civil cases settle,” Truthdig columnist and former judge Bill Blum notes. “That’s good for the plaintiffs, but a trial would have drawn a huge amount of public scrutiny.”

Indeed, many observers became hopeful earlier this month when it was announced the case was headed to trial. The ACLU, for instance, touted the impending trial “as a rare opportunity to cast into the public eye an era that has often been shrouded in secrecy.”

The terms of the settlement, according to The Guardian, were not disclosed. However, The Guardian writes:

The settlement included a joint statement on behalf of the plaintiffs and defendants, in which Mitchell and Jessen acknowledged their role in developing “a program for the CIA that contemplated the use of specific coercive methods to interrogate certain detainees”.

The statement records that “Gul Rahman was subjected to abuses in the CIA program that resulted in his death and pain and suffering to his family” and that Salim and Ben Soud “were also subjected to coercive methods in the CIA program which resulted in pain and suffering for them and their families”.

The psychologists asserted in the statement that the abuses that Salim, Ben Soud and Rahman endured happened without their knowledge, and the doctors denied responsibility for the prisoners’ treatment. The plaintiffs said they “stand by their allegations regarding the responsibility of Drs Mitchell and Jessen”.

“Drs Mitchell and Jessen state that it is regrettable that Mr Rahman, Mr Salim and Mr Ben Soud suffered the abuses,” the statement concludes.

Salim and Soud now live in their home countries, The Guardian continues, and both are reportedly satisfied with the outcome of the settlement.

“We brought this case seeking accountability and to help ensure that no one else has to endure torture and abuse, and we feel that we have achieved our goals,” they said in a joint statement. “We were able to tell the world about horrific torture, the CIA had to release secret records, and the psychologists and high-level CIA officials were forced to answer our lawyers’ questions. It has been a long, difficult road, but we are very pleased with the results.”

“This is a historic victory for our clients and the rule of law,” ACLU attorney Dror Ladin added. “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.”

Read the ACLU’s full statement, including the joint statement agreed upon by the defendants and plaintiffs in the case, here.

Emma Niles
Assistant Editor
Emma Niles, an assistant editor at Truthdig, graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a degree in political science. She has worked for the National Women’s Law Center and Ms. Magazine.…
Emma Niles

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