The case in U.S. court in Spokane marks a step forward in efforts
by rights groups to hold individuals accountable for a program that
used methods its architects said stopped short of torture but that
the American Civil Liberties Union said resulted in the torture of
at least 119 men from 2002 until it was ended in 2008.
The ACLU, which filed the lawsuit last October on behalf of three
men, one of whom died in CIA custody, argued that psychologists
James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen encouraged the agency "to adopt
torture as official policy" and made millions of dollars in the
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, says Suleiman Abdullah
Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud suffered lasting psychological and
physical damage, and that Gul Rahman died from hypothermia caused by
dehydration and exposure to cold.
The ACLU says the program used such tactics as prolonged sleep
deprivation, forced nudity, starvation, beating, water dousing and
extreme forms of sensory deprivation to break prisoners' will.
In seeking to dismiss the suit, attorneys for the psychologists
argued in court filings last month that the prisoners were asking
the court to "second-guess real-time decisions by the Executive
Branch in the theater of war almost 15 years ago."
"Should this court indulge either of plaintiffs' unfounded
requests," the lawyers wrote, "it would generate untenable,
practical dilemmas - hamstringing our government's ability to combat
the ongoing War on Terror."
[to top of second column]
The U.S. government, which was not named in the suit, has not tried
to stop the case from going forward. In the past, government lawyers
argued that similar cases would jeopardize national security if
allowed to proceed.
The case came after a U.S. Senate report from 2014 found the CIA
paid $80 million to a company run by two former U.S. Air Force
psychologists without experience in interrogation or
counterterrorism who recommended waterboarding, slaps to the face
and mock burial for prisoners suspected of being terrorists.
The psychologists were not named in that report but U.S.
intelligence sources later identified them as Mitchell and Jessen.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Sharon
Bernstein and Peter Cooney)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.