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Judge Rules CIA Torture Suit Can Begin


April 28, 2016
Jenna McLaughlin / The Intercept & The Center for Torture Accountability

A civil suit against the architects of the CIA's torture program, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, will be allowed to proceed, a federal judge has ruled. The District Judge denied the pair's motion to dismiss a lawsuit launched against them on behalf of three victims -- one dead -- of the brutal tactics they designed. This is the first time torture opponents will have the chance to seek discovery evidence in a court case unimpeded by government interference.

https://theintercept.com/2016/04/22/judge-grants-torture-victims-their-first-chance-to-pursue-justice/

Judge Grants Torture Victims
Their First Chance to Pursue Justice

Jenna McLaughlin / The Intercept

(April 22, 2016) -- A civil suit against the architects of the CIA's torture program, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, will be allowed to proceed, a federal judge in Spokane, Washington, decided on Friday.

District Judge Justin Quackenbush denied the pair's motion to dismiss a lawsuit launched against them on behalf of three victims, one dead, of the brutal tactics they designed.

"This is amazing, this is unprecedented," Steven Watt, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union representing the plaintiffs, told The Intercept after the hearing. "This is the first step towards accountability."

What's so unprecedented is that this is the first time opponents of the program will have the chance to seek discovery evidence in the case unimpeded by the government. In every other past torture accountability lawsuit, the government has invoked its special state-secrets privileges to purportedly protect national security.

But since the extraordinarily detailed and revealing executive summary of the Senate's torture report was published in 2014, after years of investigation, the government now says almost everything is declassified already.

The three plaintiffs are Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the estate of Gul Rahman, who died at a CIA black site known as the "Salt Pit." Each was kidnapped and subjected to extreme physical and psychological torture and experimentation, though none was ever charged with a crime.

The two living plaintiffs were not at the hearing, but Watt said he was thrilled to text his client Abdullah Salim, now living in Tanzania, the good news. "When I first met with him, I told him the likelihood we'd get as far as we have so far was highly unlikely. To tell him that we won today -- you know, it's historic."

Mitchell and Jessen's proposed framework for "enhanced interrogation" involved trying to drive detainees to a state of "learned helplessness" through unbearable suffering, to the point they would be willing to totally comply. The theories behind the tactics were drawn from the psychologists' experiments on dogs decades prior.

The defendants were not present at the hearing either, but their lawyers argued that Mitchell and Jessen were not directly involved in, and therefore are not responsible for, the victims' capture and treatment.

"They did not make decisions about Plaintiffs' capture, treatment, confinement conditions, and interrogations; and they did not perform, supervise or control Plaintiffs' interrogations," defense attorney Christopher Tompkins argued in a brief filed in the case.

Dror Ladin, the ACLU attorney who argued in court at Friday's hearing, argued that Mitchell and Jessen directly composed and supervised the program, and were paid to do so for years -- and therefore should not escape responsibility, according to Guardian reporter Maria L La Ganga, who blogged the hearing live.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.



Bruce Jessen
The Center for Torture Accountability

* Born in 1949, raised in Idaho
* Joined the Air Force as an enlisted man, attended college and graduate school while in the service
* Ph.D. in psychology, Utah State University. Dissertation on family therapy.
* In late 2001, obtained copy, possibly through CIA channels, of alleged "Al-Qaeda training manual" that discussed resistance to standard interrogation procedures.
* From 2002 on, left air force to work with fellow psychologist James Mitchell in private corporation, Mitchell Jessen Associates, that contracted with the CIA to supervise "enhanced" interrogation procedures--i.e., torture.

Jessen's military background, contacts,
draw him into CIA planning for detainee interrogation

As chief psychologist for the air force's SERE (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape) program, Jessen helped train special forces and aviation officers and enlisted men in dealing with abuse that might be expected if they were captured by enemy forces.

SERE training, based on the experience of American soldiers captured in the Korean and Vietnam wars, included isolation, mock interrogations, and exposure to waterboarding and other forms of torture. Jessen reported to Col. Roger Aldrich, a Special Forces officer regarded as a "legendary military survival trainer."

Aldrich is believed to have well-developed contacts within the CIA, who may have brought him into the early post-9/11 discussion/planning stages regarding interrogations of suspected enemy combatants.

Perhaps through Aldrich, a copy of a document alleged to represent an "al-Qaeda training manual" was obtained by Jessen, who shared it with James Mitchell, a fellow psychologist recently retired from the military, who had worked with Aldrich and Jessen in the SERE program.

Aldrich had already contacted the CIA regarding SERE, which he considered the military's most valuable resource with respect to interrogation expertise. In truth, however, SERE only orchestrated mock interrogations; no one in the program, certainly not Mitchell or Jessen, had expertise in actual interrogations.

Jessen retires from the military for a
private-sector opportunity as a civilian torturer

Although the "training manual" that wound up in the hands of Jessen and Mitchell does not mention al-Qaeda by name and may in fact be a CIA-produced document, they were able to use it as the basis for a torture contract proposal.

Their argument was that al-Qaeda was familiar with standard interrogation techniques, as described in the "training manual," and thus was prepared to counter them. Only SERE-like torture could crack these "trained terrorists" and induce them to reveal helpful information regarding their organization and its plans.

The proposal utilized psychological jargon in asserting that the goal of the torture should be "learned helplessness," a conditioned response to dehumanizing treatment. Jessen and Mitchell wrote up the proposal as though these ideas were original to them, but it is likely that military colleagues, perhaps including Col. Aldrich, helped them tailor the write-up to the interests of the CIA.

During the immediate post-9/11 period, when interest in military service peaked dramatically, Jessen bucked the trend by resigning his commission. He and Mitchell formed a company known as Mitchell Jessen Associates (MJA), which consisted basically of a phone answering service and possibly a small office in Spokane, WA. MJA contracted with the CIA to conduct torture sessions at black sites around the globe.

Mitchell and Jessen often personally led the "enhanced interrogations" and/or trained others. While Mitchell maintained something of a public profile, participating in conferences and other activities so as to sustain MJA's reputation as a "professional" outfit, Jessen apparently remained more or less under cover for long periods, quietly completing CIA torture assignments.

Sources on Bruce Jessen
NewsWeek
The New York Times
Psychologists Shielded US Torture Program, Report Finds by James Risen

The Guardian
US torture doctors could face charges after report alleges post-9/11 'collusion' by Spencer Ackerman

The Intercept
Emails Reveal Close Relationship Between Psychology Group and CIA by Cora Currier

Guardian
Psychologists met in secret with Bush officials to help justify torture -- report by Raya Jalabi

The New York Times
Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses by THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Slate Magazine
CIA on the Couch: Why there would have been no torture without the psychologists. by Steven Reisner

The Daily Beast
The Luxury Homes That Torture and Your Tax Dollars Built by Michael Daly

Huffington Post
Bruce Jessen Built CIA Interrogation Program; Quit Role As Mormon Bishop by Reuters

IB Times
Who Are Jim Mitchell And Bruce Jessen? CIA Torture Psychologists Were Experts In Communist Chinese Interrogation by Philip Ross

Truthout
EXCLUSIVE: CIA Psychologist's Notes Reveal True Purpose Behind Bush's Torture Program by Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye

The Spokesman-Review
Fairchild’s torture ties extend their reach by Shawn Vestal

Eurasia Review
US Pentagon Releases Training Manual Used As Basis For Bush’s Torture Program by Andy Worthington

Truthout
CIA: Detainee's Torture Drawings, Writings, "Should They Exist," to Remain Top Secret by Jason Leopold

The Guardian
Guantanamo files: US agencies fought internal war over handling of detainees by Ewen MacAskill

Eurasia Review
The Dark Desires Of Bruce Jessen: The Architect Of Bush's Torture Program by Andy Worthington

The Atlantic
Was Bush Torture Really About Interrogation? by Andrew Sullivan

Truthout
CIA Psychologist's Notes Reveal True Purpose Behind Bush's Torture Program by Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye

AmericanTorture.com
Expanding the Investigation into SERE Torture by Valtin (Michael Otterman)

American Torture
Expose (Part 1): NYT Misses Full Story on Mitchell-Jessen by Jeff Kaye

AmericanTorture.com
NYT Misses Full Story on Mitchell-Jessen (Expose Part 1) by Valtin (Michael Otterman)

American Torture
Expose (Part 3): Roger Aldrich, the Al Qaeda Manual, and the Origins of Mitchell-Jessen by Jeff Kaye

AmericanTorture.com
Roger Aldrich, the Al-Qaeda Manual, and the Origins of Mitchell-Jessen by Aldin (Michael Otterman)

American Torture
Expose (Part 2) : Expanding the Investigation into SERE Torture by Jeff Kaye

Salon.com
Torture planning began in 2001, Senate Report Reveals by Mark Benjamin

Global Research
The CIA's Torture Teachers by Mark Benjamin


James Mitchell
The Center for Torture Accountability

* Designed and implemented CIA torture methods
* Retired from US Air Force in May 2001 as an officer administering SERE training--programs training military personnel to withstand possible enemy torture
* June 2001-April 2002, operated several firms providing services associated with "extreme situations." Contacted CIA with torture contract proposal.
* April 2002-?? as principal in new company, Mitchell, Jessen & Assocs., contracted with CIA to provide torture services

Mitchell proposes torture program
to CIA as a money-making contract for his private firm

Shortly after 9/11, James Mitchell asked Air Force psychologist Bruce Jessen to let him see a top-secret document, believed to be the al Qaeda training manual. Based on its contents, he wrote a proposal for a torture interrogation program, which he and Bruce Jessen offered to run for the CIA as private contractors, to be paid "more than $1,000 a day" plus expenses, tax free.

In April 2002, when an al Qaeda prisoner being held at a CIA safe house in Thailand began talking to FBI interrogators, contributing "actionable intelligence" about al Qaeda personnel and activities, the CIA took Mitchell up on his offer and invited him to try his methods on the prisoner, Abu Zubaydah.

Mitchell showed up in Thailand, announced to FBI interrogators that he was taking over, with the blessing of top officials in Washington, and ordered that Zubaydah be confined "like a dog" to a small box.

When Zubaydah ceased cooperating with interrogators, Mitchell ordered waterboarding and other torture. He videotaped the process and submitted daily email reports to Washington, apparently to Alberto Gonzales, who at the time was serving as Bush's personal lawyer. Mitchell is believed to have received daily authorization from Gonzales to continue and/or ramp up the torture.

Mitchell's torture methods had no
basis in experience, training, or science

Mitchell and Jessen had never before conducted a single interrogation. Jessen's military assignment -- and Mitchell's former assignment, before he retired from the air force in mid-2001 -- was to monitor mock interrogations and torture sessions for training purposes (military SERE training), so that military personnel might get a taste of possible mistreatment they could expect if they fell into enemy hands.

Mitchell and Jessen had persuaded the CIA and/or the White House that suspected terrorists detained in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere were different from all previous prisoners that military and FBI interrogators had handled in the past; the new prisoners, Mitchell insisted, had been trained to resist ordinary interrogation methods and would respond only to torture.

Mitchell explained to experienced interrogators on the scene that this theory was "science," but no scientific data has ever emerged in its support. Mitchell's methods, administered by civilian contractors he hired and "trained" on the job, became the standard approach for handling high-value prisoners and many ordinary detainees as well. Torture videotapes he produced (for "training") were later destroyed by the CIA.

Washington torture memos
aimed specifically at protecting Mitchell

His work with Zubaydah and apparently also with a second prisoner preceded official legal clearances for torture.

Paperwork associated with the legal maneuvering suggests that some of the lawyers and other top-level officials were familiar with Mitchell's program and wished to establish it on secure legal footing.

The firm Mitchell Jessen and Associates still operates out of Spokane, Washington, It advertises its expertise in "understanding, predicting and improving performance in high-risk and extreme situations."

Sources on James Mitchell
The Guardian
US torture doctors could face charges after report alleges post-9/11 'collusion' by Spencer Ackerman

The New York Times
Psychologists Shielded US Torture Program, Report Finds by James Risen

The Intercept
Emails Reveal Close Relationship Between Psychology Group and CIA by Cora Currier

Guardian
Psychologists met in secret with Bush officials to help justify torture – report by Raya Jalabi

The New York Times
Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses by THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Slate Magazine
CIA on the Couch: Why there would have been no torture without the psychologists. by Steven Reisner

The Daily Beast
The Luxury Homes That Torture and Your Tax Dollars Built by Michael Daly

IB Times
Who Are Jim Mitchell And Bruce Jessen? CIA Torture Psychologists Were Experts In Communist Chinese Interrogation by Philip Ross

The Spokesman-Review
Fairchild’s torture ties extend their reach by Shawn Vestal

Eurasia Review
US Pentagon Releases Training Manual Used As Basis For Bush’s Torture Program by Andy Worthington

Truthout
CIA: Detainee's Torture Drawings, Writings, "Should They Exist," to Remain Top Secret by Jason Leopold

AmericanTorture.com
Expanding the Investigation into SERE Torture by Valtin (Michael Otterman)

American Torture
Expose (Part 1): NYT Misses Full Story on Mitchell-Jessen by Jeff Kaye

AmericanTorture.com
NYT Misses Full Story on Mitchell-Jessen (Expose Part 1) by Valtin (Michael Otterman)

American Torture
Expose (Part 3): Roger Aldrich, the Al Qaeda Manual, and the Origins of Mitchell-Jessen by Jeff Kaye

AmericanTorture.com
Roger Aldrich, the Al-Qaeda Manual, and the Origins of Mitchell-Jessen by Aldin (Michael Otterman)

American Torture
Expose (Part 2) : Expanding the Investigation into SERE Torture by Jeff Kaye

Fire Dog Lake
Did Abu Zubaydah’s Torture Begin After May 28, 2002? by Marcy Wheeler

NPR.com / All Things Considered
Did White House OK Earliest Detainee Abuse? by Ari Shapiro

The Washington Independent
James Mitchell Asked, ‘Please Can I Torture Abu Zubaydah?’; Did Alberto Gonzales Say Yes? by Spencer Ackerman

Salon.com
The 13 People Who Made Torture Possible by Marcy Wheeler
der Spiegel Online The Torture Business: CIA Outsourced Development of Interrogation Plan by John Goetz and Britta Sandberg, transl. Christopher Sultan

Salt Lake Tribune
LDS lawyers, psychologists had a hand in torture policies by David R. Irvine, Brig. Gen., ret.

Salon.com
Torture planning began in 2001, Senate Report Reveals by Mark Benjamin

VanityFair.com
Rohrschach and Awe by Katherine Eban

Global Research
The CIA's Torture Teachers by Mark Benjamin

© Center for Torture Accountability |

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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