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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When is the ACLU finally going to stop pretending that torture isn't going on domestically under the guise of 'experimentation?' Your own staff exposed it in a blog post in 2015 regarding the joint FBI/CIA program Ar2-2. Why do you continue to ignore the pleas of thousands implanted and radiated? You used to stand for something; now your silence & Soros' $50 million make you complicit to the crimes.


Amazing article thanks or sharing..


Great Information,it has lot for stuff which is informative. I will share the post with my friends.


Following 9/11 the APA made a point of endorsing members' torture research through non-intervention. The addition of language specifically prohibiting torture to the APA ethics code happened only a few years ago, after a change in the association's leadership. Their failure to act when there was a chance to prevent these sort of programs getting off the ground is the lowest and most despicable point in the organisation's history

Linda Vogel

Taxpayers money is the best argument. The Sharia is the very basis of the Law. Not only the ones tortured suffered after all see. The so called forgetting one's responsibility had been audible been. In one go the two make it sound like the agency could not have made a mistake. That is typical of denying sensation. They try to make their intellectual solution sound like that it is so - forgetting that humans have sensation, that it works conceptual and comes out in tone. Hence the tonal approach. It is still possible to yes use sensation see...

Burton Kent

Ironically their methods were a joke. Ali Soufan (FBI Interrogator) explained how he was getting good intelligence in "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda" until the CIA came in and started using their methods.

The psychologists were surprised that their theories didn't work like they thought they would. When people are tortured they'll say anything to make it stop.

Brian Carlson

This reminds me of the knee-jerk denial of the NRA disciples, "guns don't kill people, people kill people." As the designers of state of the art weapons have focused on creating the most efficient and effective killing machines know, people use their products for the purpose intended, and, if they did not have these weapons they could not kill as many people as easily as they can and from increasingly far/safe distances. The weapons manufactures are making what someone wants who will presumably kill someone or probably will. They make fortunes from this. So to try to detach from the crimes that are committed with their weapons is ridiculous. They are aiding criminals, abetting crimes. In the same manner, and perhaps more directly, these two men, trained in the workings of the human mind, use their knowledge and arts to create effective systems of torture and then would like to detach from the effects of their cause. It's beyond belief. The people who made the two atom bombs had nothing to do with the epic terrorism in the twin bombings of Japan? Ridiculous. The same goes for these men. And the comparison is not without basis. Torture has been proven to be an entirely ineffective way of gaining reliable information. It is purely sadistic and punitive. Nothing is gained from torture, no one is saved all the rationales for torture are produced by powers that use this sadism as one of their weapons of war.


Yes, they're detestable, but how can these guys be held accountable while those who ordered and carried out the torture are not?


Wow, they are actually using a comparison to NAZI supporters as their DEFENSE? They're basically admitting to facilitating torture that was a war crime, but claiming it "wasn't their fault" because they didn't do the actual torturing????? Guess they are admitting they're scumbags but are saying, "Those other scumbags got off, why shouldn't we?


They should be held accountable and pay restitution to those that they tortured. They will also be held accountable to the highest court of all when they are no longer amongst the living. They have to answer to God as to why they would have created the horrible means to torture human beings.


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