CIA Torture Psychologists Compare Themselves to Nazi Poison Gas Manufacturer as Defense

As the recently departed White House press secretary demonstrated earlier this year, making comparisons to the Nazi regime’s murderous use of poison gas is rarely a good idea. That’s one reason it was so surprising that ahead of a crucial court hearing this week, defense lawyers for the two psychologists behind the CIA’s torture program compared their clients to the contractors who supplied the Nazis with Zyklon B, the poison gas used at Auschwitz and other concentration camps to murder millions of Jews and other prisoners in the Holocaust.

Psychologists James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen were the architects of the CIA’s torture program. Now, in a groundbreaking lawsuit, three survivors and victims of the torture program are seeking to hold Mitchell and Jessen accountable.

This Friday in federal court in Spokane, Washington, Mitchell and Jessen’s lawyers will argue that they can’t be held responsible for their actions. In an extraordinary legal filing, Mitchell and Jessen claim they aren’t legally responsible to the people hurt by their methods because they “simply did business with the CIA pursuant to their contracts.”

A key part of Mitchell and Jessen’s argument hinges on the claim that poison gas manufacturers weren’t held responsible by a British military tribunal for providing the Nazis with the gas because the Nazi government, not contractors, had final say on whether to use it. They argue that they are like a corporate gassing technician who was charged with and acquitted of assisting the Nazis because “even if [Mitchell and Jessen] played an integral part of the supply and use of” torture methods, they had no “influence” over the CIA’s decision to use them and can’t be accountable.

In fact, the Nuremberg tribunals that judged the Nazis and their enablers after World War II established the opposite rule: Private contractors are accountable when they choose to provide unlawful means for and profit from war crimes. In the same case that Mitchell and Jessen cite, the military tribunal found the owner of a chemical company that sold Zyklon B to the Nazis guilty — even though only the Nazis had final say on which prisoners would be gassed.

The military tribunal made clear that “knowingly to supply a commodity to a branch of the State which was using that commodity for the mass extermination of Allied civilian nationals was a war crime, and that the people who did it were war criminals for putting the means to commit the crime into the hands of those who actually carried it out.”

This conclusion applies in our clients’ case, as we explained in a court filing. Mitchell and Jessen came up with the torture methods used at secret CIA prisons, personally tested their methods on the CIA’s first prisoner, and formed a company that took in $81 million in taxpayer money to run the torture program. Making money by choosing to supply the tools for torture isn’t “simply doing business.” It’s illegal.

Our clients Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the family of Gul Rahman will be taking a historic step to seek justice from the psychologists. It’s the first time victims of CIA torture have ever made it this far past the many obstacles that doomed previous lawsuits even before they got underway.

Having failed in two previous attempts to shut down the lawsuit against them, Mitchell and Jessen are now also making one last effort to avoid a trial — presently scheduled for early September — for their actions. The two psychologists will argue again that no court has the power to judge them, and that they’re immune from having to account for the profits they made.

But as we’ve previously pointed out, torture isn’t a “political decision” — it’s a war crime. And it is a legal and moral imperative to hold accountable those responsible for torturing in our name.

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AnonymousX

Re: "to at least fuckin' ADMIT that Khalid Sheik Mohammed killed 1000's of people .." No one is contesting that. But
-1- Khalid Sheik Mohammed is NOT one of the participants in this case
-2- Do you say that it is legitimate to use to use torture? Then was it legitimate for North Vietnam to torture McCain? After all he dropped bombs that killed people too.

Anonymous

Why are you talking to people who are as good as dead to you?

Kaddie

The evidence against Khalid, which the American people still have not seen, should have been presented at trial. There's not a jury in America that would not have voted to convict if the authorities have the evidence that they claim to have. Torture doesn't produce evidence; it just produces whatever the tortuturer wants to hear.

The real problem here isn't Khalid, it's the level of hypocritical fascism that is turning this country into 1930s Germany.

The only people that believe that torture "works" are pathological sadists that enjoy seeing others in pain.

Anonymous

You need to clean up your act. Using foul language and capitals to make a point that could be made without either are the hallmarks of a lack of intelligence. To suggest that those who object to a murderous programme of torture by the CIA are not fully aware of Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s appalling crimes, and the crimes of his associates, is infantile, frankly. Most people with any intelligence are fully aware that to prosecute those for the crime of torture is not to exonerate the victims for their own crimes, but to draw a distinction between the laws of a civilised society and barbarism. Your post is a confused rant. On the one hand you say you don’t approve of torture, and on the other, you abuse people for making precisely the same point. You need to calm down and grow up.

And I’ll address you as and when I please.

Anonymous

For the record even his attorney said no to trying him w/ Sharia Law so don't get on my case abt it unless you're also prepared to get on David Niven's case. That's KSM's attorney.

Anonymous

For the record even his attorney said no to trying him w/ Sharia Law so don't get on my case abt it unless you're also prepared to get on David Niven's case. That's KSM's attorney.

Practicing Psyc...

Bravo-these criminal acts should not be swept under the carpet of time. These psychologists should pay back every dime to the taxpayers and stand trial for their actions, They give our profession a very black eye.

Jimmi

There is an extreme sense of duty and a mythical fear Inherant in most concerning defying the Cia. There are no rules here, this psychotic thing is of horrors and paybacks. It demands respect and adherance and creeps into genes.
The psyches are dispicable and pathetic. Their institution and trade is horribly overempowered in our system and they value dominance too much. They have risen with the spy regime. The tools of the mind are weapons.
A country will break open and use desperate cruelty in times of desperation. Was there really any here?.

Anonymous

As a Psychologist myself, these two people (and I use that term loosely) represent the worst of our profession. They are comparable to Dr. Mengele in that they perverted their professional know to harm people.

I hope they lose this lawsuit, and have to pay back their ill-gotten profits, although by this time I am sure it is long gone to some safe shelter. They also need to lose their licenses to practice, and, most importantly, need to go to prison for war crimes.

Their behavior has damaged our profession and our country.

Anonymous

The CIA was sued successfully by 8 Canadian citizens who were victims Dr. Ewan Cameron's experiments in mind control conducted in Montreal, a program funded jointly by the CIA & the Canadian government. It was part of the MKUltra program of the CIA.

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