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ACLU: Psychologists Behind CIA Interrogation Program Settle Torture Case

By Jeff Seldin August 17, 2017

Two psychologists who helped design an interrogation program used by the CIA in the U.S. war on terror have settled a lawsuit brought on behalf of three former detainees.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed but attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union called the settlement an "historic victory" in a statement Thursday.

"This outcome shows that there are consequences for torture and that survivors can and will hold those responsible for torture accountable," said ACLU attorney Dror Ladin.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit against psychologists James Mitchell and John Jessen, who were contracted by the U.S. government following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The lawsuit claimed Mitchell and Jessen designed and personally administered what the ACLU described as an experimental torture program.

An attorney representing Mitchell and Jessen said the settlement "relieves a significant burden on the court, potential witnesses and my clients."

"If this case had gone forward, the facts would have borne out that while the plaintiffs suffered mistreatment by some of their captors, none of that mistreatment was conducted, condoned or caused by Drs. Mitchell and Jessen," attorney James Smith added in a statement.

A CIA spokesman told VOA the spy agency had no comment on the case.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit in October 2015on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed BenSoud, and the family of Gul Rahman.

According to CIA records,Rahman was apprehended during a raid in Islamabad, Pakistan in October 2002.

The documents state Rahman was "known to interact with and support al-Qaida "and that officials hoped he would be able to provide useful intelligence.

But Rahman was uncooperative and froze to death in a secret CIA prison in November 2002following what the documents described as a "rough" interrogation which included periods of sleep deprivation and being shackled in his cell wearing nothing but a sweatshirt.

According to the ACLU, Salim, a Tanzanian fisherman captured in Somalia in 2003, was released five years later. Soud, from Libya, was rendered to Libya and held by authorities there until the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime.

In a joint statement included as part of the settlement, the CIA-contracted psychologists said: "the abuses of Mr. Salim and Mr. BenSoud occurred without their knowledge or consent and that they were not responsible for those actions. Drs. Mitchell and Jessen also assert that they were unaware of the specific abuses that ultimately caused Mr. Rahman's death and are also not responsible for those actions."

A 2014 Senate report on the CIA interrogation program documented the use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning, rectal feeding, the use of painful stress positions and sleep deprivation.

The report also concluded the interrogation techniques produced no useful intelligence.

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