ACLU is touting settlement in case against CIA torture psychologists as victory

nsnbc : The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced a settlement in the civil lawsuit against the two military psychologists James Mitchell and John Jessen who designed and helped implement the CIA’s notorious torture program. A jury trial was scheduled to begin September 5. However, on August 17 the two accused agreed to settle out of court with the conditions of the settlement being confidential.

USA_Military psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen_80 million dollar to develop CIA torture techniquesMilitary psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen actively helped design and develop the CIA’s interrogation program, adopted post 9/11 and approved under the euphemistic name enhanced interrogation techniques by the Bush administration.

A trial date had been set on September 5, 2017, after senior Judge Quackenbush on October 3, 2016, ruled that at least two senior CIA officials would have to sit for deposition in as requested by defendants Mitchell and Jessen. The two are considered to be among the main architects of the CIA’s notorious torture program.

The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU on behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the family of Gul Rahman, who froze to death in a secret CIA prison. The three men were tortured and experimented on using methods developed by the CIA-contracted psychologists. The ACLU is touting the settlement with secret terms instead of a jury trial as a vivtory. ACLU attorney Dror Ladin and the plaintiffs stated:

“This is a historic victory for our clients and the rule of law. … This outcome shows that there are consequences for torture and that survivors can and will hold those responsible for torture accountable. It is a clear warning for anyone who thinks they can torture with impunity. … We brought this case seeking accountability and to help ensure that no one else has to endure torture and abuse, and we feel that we have achieved our goals,” the plaintiffs said in a joint statement praising the settlement. “We were able to tell the world about horrific torture, the CIA had to release secret records, and the psychologists and high-level CIA officials were forced to answer our lawyers’ questions. It has been a long, difficult road, but we are very pleased with the results.”

Up until this civil lawsuit that wasn’t tried before a jury anyway, every lawsuit trying to hold people accountable for the CIA torture program has been dismissed at initial stages because the government successfully argued that letting the cases proceed would reveal state secrets. In the case against Mitchell and Jessen, however, the Justice Department did not succeed at derailing the lawsuit. The ACLU derailed it when it accepted a settlement on behalf of its clients instead of insisting on a trial.

However, Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project stated “Government officials and contractors are on notice that they cannot hide from accountability for torture. … Our clients’ groundbreaking case has changed the legal landscape. It showed that the courts are fully capable of handling lawsuits involving abuses committed in the name of national security.”

Others would argue that the ACLU’s “groundbreaking victory” has set a precedent that shows that government officials like the CIA torture psychologists can get away with a slap over their writs for even the most appalling and heinous crimes as long as they can pay their way out of a trial. Critics would also notice that the civil jury trial could have created precedence for civil, and eventually criminal lawsuits against higher-ups, in the Defense Department, Justice Department, State Department and the White House. By settling out of court – based on a secret settlement – the ACLU has contributed to making it even more improbable that the political architects behind the torture program will ever have to face a trial.

CH/L – nsnbc 21.08.2017

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