Historic Ruling Puts Justice Within Reach for CIA Torture Victims

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CIA torture victims are a big step closer to accountability.

A federal judge has ruled against two CIA contract psychologists, James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, in their effort to dismiss a case brought against them on behalf of three victims of the torture program they designed and implemented for the agency.

Senior Judge Justin Quackenbush announced his decision rejecting the psychologists’ motion to dismiss during an argument last Friday in Spokane, Washington. Yesterday, the federal court issued its written opinion.

The ruling is an historic first. Those responsible for the CIA’s torture program never previously had to answer for their actions because no victim’s case has ever proceeded beyond a motion to dismiss. Thanks to this order, we now enter into the pretrial discovery phase of the litigation, an essential step before any trial of Mitchell and Jessen for their key role in the torture of our clients. During discovery our clients will be able to obtain evidence from Mitchell and Jessen to help prove their case at trial — although the Senate torture report already makes public many of Mitchell and Jessen’s actions in the CIA torture program.

The case was brought by Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ben Soud, two survivors of the CIA program, and the family of Gul Rahman, who died as a result of his torture. All three men were subjected to torture techniques and methods that Mitchell and Jessen designed and helped implement for the CIA. To this day, Salim and Ben Soud suffer psychologically and physically from the effects of their torture. Gul Rahman’s family has never been officially notified of his death, and his body never returned to them.

In their effort to evade accountability, lawyers for the two psychologists had argued that the decision to torture the three men was a political one and therefore not appropriate for determination by a judge. They also argued that they are entitled to the same legal immunity as government officials because they were government contractors. 

As the court recognized, however, our judiciary is well equipped to handle claims of torture, and it does not turn a blind eye to prisoner abuse even in wartime. The court pointed out that years of case law “demonstrate the present fallacy of Defendants’ argument that the court must decline jurisdiction because the case falls within the realm of war and foreign policy.”

The court also explained that contractors do not qualify for immunity unless they “merely acted at the direction of the Government” in carrying out lawful government contracts. Mitchell and Jessen went far beyond carrying out orders. They designed, sold, and implemented an unlawful torture program (and earned tens of millions of dollars in the process).

After over a decade of trying, it looks like CIA torture survivors will finally have their day in court.  

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Crock of bs! Worry about those killed by Muslims! Where is their justice!!!


Nowhere at all as long as we have people who will feel sorry for the ones who killed my daughter's dad, and not even because they ACTUALLY feel anything for them. Half of them act like they're only doing it to 'prove they're Democrats and therefore so much more caring than Republicans.' Right. That's why you don't care at all that there was evidence against Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Mohammedou Slahi beFORE they were tortured at that gd idiot Cheney's orders, two people who've never felt a single bit of remorse for anything they've done (which means they'll probably do it again to someone else. You don't care about all that bc you're supposedly 'so much more caring than Republicans.'
I think both are too extreme. The only one I know who wasn't is dead along with almost 3,000 others.


I've heard two different people (one on a Senate committee, foreign relations or something, and a retired General) say that torture just doesn't work. But even if it did, torture would be either a war crime or inhumane treatment, both illegal in the USA/Geneva.


these two psychologists are modern equivalent of Josef Mengele. they must be punished for their evil deeds. and Suleiman, Mohamed Ben Soud and Gul Rahman's family must receive an apology and a huge compensation (not that it will undo these horrible acts, but will act as a deterrent for those who pursue such immoral contracts willingly. for financial gains).


Agreed and well said. There are plenty of victims, since the Bushes came into office, right here in America that go unnoticed.


And of course THEY don't owe families of September 11 victims ANY apologies bc by God and by all means we should feel way more sorry for people who helped murder 1000's, not the silly victims who will never rise from their graves. Especially those who were burned so effectively out of existence they never even went INTO their coffins.
We buried photos and a stupid Bible.


The single largest impact the ACLU could make in America's broken intelligence agencies is: demanding Congress mandate "Oath of Office training" for all Intel employees and contractors.

There are many good people working in these agencies that have never received proper loyalty training from bad leadership within their agencies.

All intelligence personnel, including the FBI, NSA, DoD and CIA, take a supreme and superseding loyalty oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution (which includes the Bill of Rights).

The American oath is an indirect loyalty oath, it's not to the nation or the people directly. The Founding Fathers believed the nation and people were best served with a constitutional "rule of law" model of government so they created an indirect loyalty oath.

In any activity with extreme secrecy and tremendous power, proper loyalty is the most vital asset to any intelligence official or contractor.

The ACLU could persuade Congress to mandate this training, with an annual refresher exam, into law. It's the most important reform that an outside group can demand of Congress, to correct Harry S. Truman's unconstitutional intelligence model created decades ago. Today's intelligence leaders actually have "contempt" for their supreme loyalty oath and we need desperate action by Congress or the courts.


The ACLU affiliates in each state vitally need to create a "Blue Pages" (similar to the Yellow Pages) so ACLU supporters can financially support each other - especially since many ACLU supporters are crime victims of programs like CoinTelPro - where the primary weapon is "employment tampering".

One reason Martin Luther King, Jr. survived "employment tampering" by the FBI and other national security agencies was he had a unique source of income that was hard to tamper with as a Christian minister.

The vast majority of CoinTelPro crime victims aren't as well protected from the felony crime of "employment tampering" by the DOJ, FBI and other agencies.

Many forget that former U.S. Attorney General, John Ashcroft, was severely reprimanded for his fraudulent use of the "Material Witness Statute" for employment tampering and defamation to punish legal First Amendment exercises - so the DOJ itself has it's own version CoinTelPro employment tampering.

The two major political parties have abandoned CoinTelPro crime victims along with Congress and the courts. The ACLU needs to employ these crime victims or hire their businesses since nobody else will do their duty.

During the Civil Rights era there was a "Green Book" to aid African-Americans. Today the ACLU needs a "Blue Pages" to help crime victims destroyed by the local, state and federal agencies since 9/11.


What a great suggestion. I'm also a victim of COINTELPRO - retaliation for whistleblowing, I'm sure. My life is being sabotaged, all my plans (after surviving aggressive breast cancer) practically vanished. I've heard of dozens who've committed suicide. Why won't the agencies that purport to support Constitutional, civil, and human rights help us?

I would support boycotts (do-not-buy lists) and hire lists - anything to start empowering us. And, ACL (no U) - we need help, ok???


I'm from Sweden. I've read that Guantanamo isn't the only prison where CIA use torture against prisoners. So even if they close Guantanamo the torture will go on in secret in some other part of the world. I hope that is not true... I'm so disappointed in Obama, and his democratic administration!


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