The Trump Administration will keep secret scores of records pertaining to the government’s relationship between the CIA and two former Spokane psychologists who were the architects of controversial torture techniques used against terrorism suspects.
Those records had been sought by attorneys defending Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell against lawsuits. The pair were hired by the CIA to develop “enhanced interrogation technique” that included torture and waterboarding.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of three men who claimed they were tortured by U.S. agents and the psychologists.
Mitchell and Jessen’s company earned $81 million from the government for their services.
Dror Ladin, who brought the suit on behalf of the ACLU, said he does not believe that the government’s decision would prevent the case from proceeding. It’s currently scheduled for trial on June 26 in Spokane.
“This isn’t about information necessary to the case and the government hasn’t said that they are seeking a dismissal of the case,” Ladin said. “There is so much information in the public record that this case can be fully litigated.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2015 in behalf of Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud and the estate of Gul Rahman.
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.
U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush had given government attorneys a deadline of Wednesday to decide whether they would take the rare step of asserting state secrets under the argument that providing that information would compromise the inner workings of the government.
Most of the hundreds of pages of documents are related to the interrogations of scores of other detainees that are not part of the case.
“The protections offered by the CIA Act are applicable to information that is requested in the context of civil discovery,” government attorneys wrote. “Defendants’ proposed inquiry is barred by the CIA Act, as it would require the witnesses to confirm or deny their duties with the CIA. The CIA Act also protects against disclosure of a broad range of personnel related information regarding the functions, organization, and identities of CIA personnel.”
Attorneys will be meeting next week in South Africa with Salim, who is expected to provide a deposition and make himself available for medical examinations for experts to decide whether he suffers long-term physical and emotional damage from his interrogation as the suit claims.
The attorneys for Mitchell and Jessen are expected to file their response to the government’s decision to keep certain records secret later this month.
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