Military psychologists James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen are two men who helped the CIA devise enhanced interrogation techniques for suspects detained after the September 11 terror attacks. Now, years later, the psychologists are in court facing lawsuits from two of those detainees who want them held accountable.
The psychologists “aided and abetted the torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” their clients endured, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
A few of the EITs devised by Mitchell and Jessen include stuffing detainees into small boxes, slamming them against walls and waterboarding – all of which were legal on the detainee for whom they were devised, terror suspect Abu Zubaydah, The Buffalo News explains.
Interestingly, both the prosecution and the defense cited Holocaust trials in their arguments. The defense noted that technician at a poison gas company was acquitted of the crimes committed at Auschwitz because he could supposedly do nothing to stop the gas from ending up in the hands of the Nazis who were running the concentration camp. The prosecution countered that the owner of another gas company, Zyklon-B, was found guilty and hanged.
Waterboarding was banned in 2015 during the Obama administration on a bipartisan basis, with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was tortured himself in Vietnam, leading the charge.
“We must continue to insist that the methods we employ in this fight for peace and freedom must always, always, be as right and honorable as the goals and ideals we fight for,” McCain said at the time.
The Senate voted 78-21 to limit the U.S. government to use interrogation and detention techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual.
Then-candidate Donald Trump said on the campaign trail last year that he would be open to bringing waterboarding back – and a whole lot worse.
Federal court Judge Justin L. Quackenbush insisted that this case will not become a political trial on whether the CIA’s response to 9/11 was proportionate to the crime. It would focus solely on whether the detainees were indeed subject to torture.
The case is expected to proceed to a trial in September, but the judge implored the sides to do everything in their power to avoid it.