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Mitchell and Jessen attorneys seek judge to unlock CIA records of torture program

UPDATED: Thu., March 23, 2017, 6:12 p.m.

James Mitchell, the former Spokane psychologist who designed and participated in the CIA’s water boarding torture of terrorism suspects, was interviewed Wednesday, Jan. 25, on FOX News. He supported President Donald Trumps statement that torture works. (FOX News)
James Mitchell, the former Spokane psychologist who designed and participated in the CIA’s water boarding torture of terrorism suspects, was interviewed Wednesday, Jan. 25, on FOX News. He supported President Donald Trumps statement that torture works. (FOX News)

The attorneys for former Spokane psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen argued this week that the Trump Administration’s decision to keep some records secret in the name of national security has hindered their ability to defend against a civil suit filed by the ACLU.

In court documents filed this week, attorney Brian Paszamant asked U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush to compel the U.S. Government to allow them to interview CIA officials James Cotsana and Gina Haspel so show against allegations that it was Mitchell and Jessen who were the architects of the enhanced interrogation techniques, that included torture and waterboarding.

As the the disputes over records has drawn into weeks, Judge Quackenbush this week agreed to delay the trial from June 26 to Sept. 5, which would be held in Spokane.

“Factual discovery is now over, yet (Mitchell and Jessen) remain hamstrung from explaining that they - at all times - acted specifically at the Government’s direction and had no involvement in the creation and implementation of any CIA program to capture, render, detain and/or interrogate any of Plaintiffs, other than some limited contact with Plaintiff Rahman,” Paszamant wrote in court documents filed Wednesday.

Rahman, an Afghan, was taken from his home in Pakistan in November 2002 to a secret CIA prison. He died of hypothermia several weeks later after being shackled to a floor in near freezing conditions.

According to the lawsuit, Salim and Ben Soud both suffered waterboarding, daily beatings and sleep deprivation while inside CIA “black sites.” Both Salim and Ben Soud were later released after officials determined that they posed no threat to the United States.

A U.S. Senate investigation in 2014 found that Mitchell and Jessen’s techniques produced no actionable intelligence in the war on terror.

The attorney representing the men, Dror Ladin of the ACLU, previously has said that enough information has been publicly released though the Senate investigation to allow the suit to go forward.

But Paszmant argued that the ACLU is basing its suit on false or incomplete information.

“For example, (Mitchell and Jessen) have been unable to testify - or even discuss with their attorneys - many of the details of the Program’s origins or its day-to-day functioning. They cannot reveal certain discussions that occurred at meetings, or name those that directed them to take certain actions,” he wrote. “But, more to the present point, they cannot testify as to information outside their personal knowledge—which is why the testimony of Haspel and Cotsana is critical.”

Paszamant wrote that Haspel and Cotsana would be able to “connect the dots” between communication between CIA Headquarters and the bases where the detainees were held.

Mitchell and Jessen “do not desire information concerning the detailed and apparently complex interworkings of the CIA,” Paszamant wrote. “Defendants merely seek information evidencing how the CIA exercised command and control over them. In the end, the Government fails to meet its burden to demonstrate that information was properly withheld under the National Security Act.”


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