Two Spokane psychologists hired by the CIA to develop what amounted to a torture program for terror suspects have settled a lawsuit by two detainees and the family of a third who died of hypothermia while under interrogation.
The American Civil Liberties Union announced the settlement Thursday with James Mitchell and Bruce Jenssen, designers of the torture program. The resolution comes as the case was about to go to trial September 5. There was no mention of a monetary provision in the agreement.
The ACLU case was the first involving CIA torture to make it to the trial stage and alleged that Mitchell and Jenssen were liable for the pain and suffering the detainees experienced when CIA handlers used the psychologists’ torture techniques. Every other lawsuit has been dismissed at early stages based on government claims that a trial would expose state secrets.
The suit was brought on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud and the family of Gul Rahman, who froze to death in a secret CIA prison called COBALT in Afghanistan.
The three men, all considered low value prisoners, were tortured and experimented on using the methods developed by Mitchell and Jenssen. The techniques used included shutting the men in coffin-like boxes, striping them naked except for a diaper while they were left hanging by their arms, prolonged sleep deprivation and exposure to continuous loud music, according to court papers.
Rahman died of hypothermia while wearing only a diaper and left hanging in a freezing cell.
Mitchell and Jessen and the company they formed were paid $81 million by the CIA and the government covered their legal fees in this case. The ACLU did not sue the government, however. Instead, it relied on a 200-year-old law known as the Alien Tort Statute, which allows federal lawsuits for gross human rights violations.
As part of the settlement, Mitchell and Jessen acknowledged that they worked with the CIA to develop specific coercive methods of interrogation. They also acknowledged they caused pain and suffering to the three men and their families.
Case: Salim v. Mitchell, No. 15-cv-286, Eastern District of Washington