Torture Isn’t a ‘Political Decision’ — It’s a War Crime

According to the psychologists who teamed up with the CIA to design, implement, and oversee the agency’s post-9/11 torture program, torture is just politics. That’s what James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, CIA contractors who profited enormously from torture, told a federal court last month.

Facing a lawsuit by three of their victims, the psychologists argued that courts can’t even hear claims of U.S. government torture — because judges can’t condemn torture “without implicitly questioning, and even condemning, U.S. policy on the war against al-Qa’ida.” In other words, Mitchell and Jessen argue torture is a political decision that the executive branch gets to make without any judicial oversight.

Mitchell and Jessen are trying to avoid answering for what they did. Last week the ACLU responded on behalf of our clients, Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the family of Gul Rahman. All three were kidnapped by the CIA and tortured and experimented upon according to Mitchell and Jessen’s protocols. Mr. Rahman died as a result of his torture, while Mr. Salim and Mr. Ben Soud were eventually released. None was ever charged with a crime by the United States.

As we explain in our brief, torture is unequivocally illegal under both U.S. and international law. Every branch of our government has recognized that the courts have an essential responsibility in enforcing the prohibition on torture. Over two decades ago, Congress expanded the judiciary’s existing ability to provide remedies to victims because “universal condemnation of human rights abuses ‘provide[s] scant comfort’ to the numerous victims of gross violations if they are without a forum to remedy the wrong.” The State Department has repeatedly claimed to international human rights bodies that our courts remain open to victims of torture.   

Mitchell and Jessen argue that they should be immune from accountability to their victims — even though they personally made millions of dollars from CIA torture. They say that because the federal government has unique immunity from lawsuits, federal contractors should also be immune. But contractors don’t share the government’s immunity because they face a completely different set of incentives and restrictions than government employees. This case illustrates the dangers posed by contractors who seek profit at any cost.

The CIA itself belatedly acknowledged Mitchell and Jessen’s conflict of interest in the torture program that the contractors created and oversaw. But before that happened, the corporation they formed was paid $81 million by the CIA — or in other words, the American taxpayer. Our brief explains that, contrary to Mitchell and Jessen’s claims, they don’t get to torture with impunity.  

Torture isn’t politics; it’s a crime condemned around the world. It’s essential that we hold accountable those responsible for torturing in our name. A critical step in that process is letting victims have their day in court.

Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the family of Gul Rahman should get the chance to seek justice from the psychologists who tortured and experimented on them. Anything less would be unconscionable. Our country can’t turn the page on torture and put this shameful practice behind us until wrongdoers provide apologies and redress to the victims and survivors. 

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Martin Smith

Once again, as so many times in the past, the ACLU is America's conscience. Thank you for all that you have done to remind us of our better side!

Anonymous

When will the ACLU support the American people's rights against terrorists in our own country. They support terrorists as though they have rights, but not the American people who have inalienable rights. In effect the ACLU has become a de facto terrorist group. They have used the American Criminal Justice System and the American Justice System for the Criminals.

Anonymous

This is unbelievable. today, at 6 pm, I posted a long post on your "then displayed" column against the FBI which is actually protecting US AMERICANS AGAINST YOU, ACLU CYBERCRIMINALS AND IMPLANTERS KILLERS OF OUR INNOCENT CHILDREN YOU DECEIVE WITH YOUR SUPPOSED ACTIVIST PROTECTING "OUR CIVIL RIGHTS" FRONT STORE WINDOW, and what did you do, you again for the million time cyberhacked my computer in BayRidge, Brooklyn, prevented me from posting my post and erased, and now, when I log on again to post it again and keep trying, YOU ALSO DELETED YOUR ATTACK AGAINST THE FBI POST! ALL OF YOU ISRAELI FOREIGN ENEMY OF AMERICA LEADERS OF THIS HAGUE CRIMES ORGANIZATION, MY DAUGHTER AND SON THAT YOU IMPLANTED RIGHT HERE IN NYC ARE TAKING YOU TO COURT AND THEIR LIVES WILL NOT GO IN VAIN AND THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS WAS PROTECTING ALL OF US AGAINST YOUR ATROCIOUS MURDERS AND NOW THE FBI IS!!

Anonymous

When will the ACLU prosecute War criminals such as Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS etc for war crimes?

Anonymous

The ACLU primarily works to defend the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights - which were designed by the Founding Fathers primarily to RESTRAIN unconstitutional activities by federal, state and local governments inside the United States.

In other words the ACLU tries to make American government officials have fidelity to their own supreme loyalty oath - the oath of office - that these government officials voluntarily agreed to as a condition of employment and authority over us mere citizens.

Foreigners that commit war crimes are policed by the International Criminal Court and the United Nations - not the ACLU. The ACLU's role is to help prevent and deter the FBI and other agencies from operating as an East German Stasi (Cold War era communist secret police). It's not the ACLU's gig!

Anonymous

This is unbelievable. today, at 6 pm, I posted a long post on your "then displayed" column against the FBI which is actually protecting US AMERICANS AGAINST YOU, ACLU CYBERCRIMINALS AND IMPLANTERS KILLERS OF OUR INNOCENT CHILDREN YOU DECEIVE WITH YOUR SUPPOSED ACTIVIST PROTECTING "OUR CIVIL RIGHTS" FRONT STORE WINDOW, and what did you do?

You again for the million time cyberhacked my computer in BayRidge, Brooklyn, prevented me from posting my post and erased, and now, when I log on again to post it again and keep trying, YOU ALSO DELETED YOUR ATTACK AGAINST THE FBI POST! ALL OF YOU ISRAELI FOREIGN ENEMY OF AMERICA LEADERS OF THIS HAGUE CRIMES ORGANIZATION, MY DAUGHTER AND SON THAT YOU IMPLANTED RIGHT HERE IN NYC ARE TAKING YOU TO COURT AND THEIR LIVES WILL NOT GO IN VAIN AND THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS WAS PROTECTING ALL OF US AGAINST YOUR ATROCIOUS MURDERS AND NOW THE FBI IS!!

And do not hack again or delete my basic civil right:MY FREEDOM OF SPEECH

Anonymous

"...do not hack again or delete my basic civil right:MY FREEDOM OF SPEECH."If your remarks and your right to have freedom to speak is important to you, why not sign your name?

Donna Joy Plattner

ME AND MY FAMILY ARE ATTACKED DAILY WITH (DIRECT ENERGY MAGNETIC WEAPON'S)

Michael Nolan

Thanks to the ACLU for taking up this and many other struggles. We need you.

Kapten Kirk

Thanks ACLU for your important work against dictatorship-huggers, inside and outside the U.S.

Don't give the dictatorship-huggers any excuses.

Greetings from Sweden

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