The two psychologists contracted to set up and monitor the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” following September 11 are being sued by the ACLU on behalf of three men who were subjected to the horrors of the program, one of whom was tortured to death.

James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen “developed, operated, and assessed” the torture operations based on the psychological theory of “learned helplessness” — the premise that a human or animal subject to repeated and unavoidable negative, painful experiences will eventually give up trying to escape them. As it relates to clinical depression, the theory seeks to explain how an individual might perceive that they have no control over bettering their situation. Mitchell and Jessen used it as justification for horrifically abusing detainees.

Suleiman Abdullah Salim was one of those detainees. He was held for more than five years at a number of CIA sites, including Bagram Air Base — the “forgotten Guantanamo” — where, according to the lawsuit, he experienced forced anal insertions, was held in “solitary confinement in small cages,” and repeatedly beaten. As reported by Al Jazeera America:

On one occasion at the black site “COBALT,” a chain with a large ball at the end was attached to Salim’s waist. He was forced to walk around the room naked and hooded until he collapsed.

Another time, he was taken into a room with a wooden wall. A collar was placed around Salim’s neck, and, “using the leash, the interrogator threw Mr. Salim against the wooden wall. Mr. Salim crashed into the wall, and as he rebounded, the interrogator struck Mr. Salim in the stomach,” the suit claims.

He was eventually released, never having been charged with any crime, the only explanation given to him being a letter saying “he posed no threat to the United States.”

Two other men, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud and Gul Rahman, received similar abuse at the hands of Mitchell and Jessen’s program. While Soud was eventually freed, Rahman was tortured to death, according to the Senate report:

An internal CIA review and autopsy assessed that Rahman likely died from hypothermia — in part from having been forced to sit on the bare concrete floor without pants. […]

Other contributing factors were identified as dehydration, lack of food, and immobility due to “short chaining.”

Mitchell and Jessen refuted the Senate findings when the report was released in 2014, calling it “partisan bullshit.” They chalk it up to “hindsight bias,” saying that, sure, now it’s easy to see that abusing people until they die is a bad idea, but they couldn’t have known that back then, a whole 10 years ago. It’s not like they, as medical professionals, take a flippin’ oath about it.

While the Senate found that none of the abuse designed by Mitchell and Jessen resulted in any useful evidence or information, Mitchell maintains the program was “highly successful.” But that might have something to do with the $81 million dollars he and his partner in crime received from the U.S. government to torture and kill innocent people.

ACLU Sues Evil Psychologists Who Set Up CIA’s Torture Program


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