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Psychologists' Civil Trial Should Shed Light on CIA Interrogations

James Mitchell, left, and John "Bruce" Jessen in a deposition video. (Screen shot via The New York Times)

A lawsuit against two psychologists who were contracted by the Central Intelligence Agency is heading to trial in a civil case, potentially allowing an in-depth look at how terrorism suspects were treated by the agency in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

The American Civil Liberties Union claims the psychologists, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, participated in war crimes by creating and implementing interrogation methods the CIA used on terrorism suspects. The Independent explains:

The American Civil Liberties Union brought the lawsuit on behalf of two men who were captured and detained by the CIA and the family of a third who died of hypothermia while in custody. They allege that they were beaten, deprived of sleep, forced to endure extreme temperatures and subjected to a form of waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning.

The organisation hailed the impending trial as a rare opportunity to cast into the public eye an era that has often been shrouded in secrecy. A exhaustive US Senate report on post-9/11 interrogation techniques concluded that attempts to extract information from suspects were “were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.”

“This is a historic day for our clients and all who seek accountability for torture,” ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said in a press release. “The court’s ruling means that for the first time, individuals responsible for the brutal and unlawful CIA torture program will face meaningful legal accountability for what they did.”

Deposition videos obtained by The New York Times further reveal the extent of the two men’s participation in the interrogation program.

“The program has been well documented, but under deposition, with a camera focused on their faces, Drs. Jessen and Mitchell provided new details about the interrogation effort, their roles in it and their rationales,” the Times writes. “Their accounts were sometimes at odds with their own correspondence at the time, as well as previous portrayals of them by officials and other interrogators as eager participants in the program.”

Mitchell and Jessen’s lawyers argue that the psychologists’ work with the CIA ended in 2002, before the ACLU’s plaintiffs were tortured. According to the Times, the lawyers also argue the CIA controlled the program.

“But the participation of the psychologists in some aspects of the CIA’s interrogation programme is not in doubt,” The Independent says. “After being asked by a federal official to analyse the effects of waterboarding and mock burials, Judge Quackenbush wrote, ‘the factual evidence supports’ the men having recommended the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ like waterboarding. The judge called it ‘undisputed’ that Mr Jessen and Mr Mitchell had participated in interrogating and waterboarding a detainee who is not among the three plaintiffs.”

Read the full story here.

–Posted by Emma Niles.

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