Washington DC, (TFC)– Two formerly CIA-contracted psychologists may face trial for their roles in torture programs during the war on terror. Despite defense attempts, a federal judge ruled against dropping a lawsuit against the duo. The legal action was filed by former CIA black site detainee’s who endured the architecture erected by the doctors.
Interestingly, Judge Justin Quackenbush cautioned against a “political trial”. One solely focused on whether the Bush Administration was in the wrong. Rather, the central theme will be determining whether the plaintiffs were tortured, and if the doctors aided and abetted it. In response, lawyers for psychologists James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen argue they should be afforded immunity enjoyed by government officials.
Although the psychologists never met these particular detainee’s, they did provide and inform the interrogation methods. Water boarding aside, these included: sleep deprivation changing the diet from solids to liquids, forced feeding through the anus, a variety of stress positions, physical abuse including slaps and punches, temperature manipulation, the use of sound and music to fatigue or terrorize, forced nudity, and unnecessarily cramped confinement.
These techniques were listed in a Senate report on the torture released in 2014. However, many outlets covering the trial appear to have forgotten that much of the reports were redacted. Although these techniques are what’s known, the worst is still hidden in Washington. Additionally, other clandestine agencies including the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are known to have similar programs.
Lawyers for the pair of doctors argue that because the methods weren’t “intended” to cause severe mental or physical harm, it’s not torture. They also argue that although they created a list of interrogation methods, they didn’t control the CIA’s actions. Numerous references were made to the Nuremberg trials by both the defense and prosecution to make a case. The move earned ire from many, turned off by the unorthodox legal argument.
According to the New York Times, the doctors profited from their involvement with $1,800 a day. They later formed a company which accumulated $81 million and continued developing the CIA’s interrogation program. Lawyers even claimed the torture report itself was largely partisan and should be considered hearsay. Since the report was also a summary of an even larger, redacted document, they feel it’s not credible. Defense lawyers also motioned to excluded professional opinions of psychologists and doctors interviewed by the prosecution.
All three of the plaintiffs–Libyan Mohamed Ben Soud, Tanzanian Suleiman Salim, and Gul Raham–were captured by the CIA in Afghanistan. Gul Raham is the only plaintiff that’s actually dead, likely due to hypothermia and while in captivity. The other two experienced similar maltreatment included forced nudity, cramp confinement in the dark for months, beatings, and water dousing.
Despite the legal loopholes the two doctors have tried to exploit, the fate of at least one might be more precarious. According to New York Times, whereas Dr. Jensen has kept quiet, Dr. Mitchell has further profited through speaking events. His Worldwide Speakers Group profile lists his fees as between $15,000 and $25,000 covering topics on his work. Interestingly, his profile describes Dr. Mitchell as “a primary interrogator from it’s [the rendition program] inception.” Furthermore, it concludes that “Mitchell offers a look inside the minds of those trying to destroy America.”
“We care more about playing fair than they do”, Dr. Mitchell has said at events, “and as a result they view that as our weakness and use it against us.” That kind of rhetoric is not unlike Trump’s boisterous campaign statements now influencing massive civilian deaths in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
In the current administrative reality, Mitchell’s sentiments appeared to have foreshadowed the future. This overlap of opinion, as well as Trump’s support for torture, may hint at the discrete continuation of these programs. Programs which, prior to his taking office, were banned due to the program’s controversy and poor optics. But no level of mutual agreeance with the president may save the doctors.
Take the Nousir Square massacre by a Blackwater military contracting convey in a densely populated Iraqi town. As a result of the intense media coverage, and conviction of two contractors, Blackwater went under. It’s founder, former Navy SEAL Erik Prince, blamed the Obama Administration for throwing the company under the bus. Could the same game be playing out around the trials of Doctors Mitchell and Jessen? Will they be sacrificed so that the people will have closure, as the fruit of their labor continues?