Trump Could Dismiss Lawsuit by CIA Torture Victims
In the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the CIA broadened its torture toolkit. Detainees were stuffed in boxes. They were forced to spend hours holding uncomfortable positions, sometimes barred from sleeping for days at a time. And of course, there was waterboarding. In October 2015, two men who were subjected to the CIA’s interrogations at secret prisons in Afghanistan filed lawsuits against the two CIA contractors who sculpted the agency’s torture program.
The plaintiffs and their lawyers now question whether their quest for justice could be undermined by President-elect Trump, who has expressed support for torture techniques, and will have the power to unilaterally dismiss the suit if he chooses. No government official involved in a torture program has been held accountable, and this suit, backed by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, is the furthest former detainees have gotten.
Suleiman Abdullah Salim of Tanzania, and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud of Libya, along with representatives of a third man who died in the CIA’s secret prison, are the plaintiffs in the case. The defendants are James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, both psychologists and contractors who devised and helped implement the torture program.
If Trump, who recently hinted his position supporting torture might have shifted, decides to invoke the state secrets privilege, the case would be dismissed under the grounds of national security. The Department of Justice under President Obama has blocked civil cases against CIA contractors from proceeding under the same pretense.
But in April, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, where the suit was filed, dismissed a motion that claimed the suit could reveal security-compromising secrets. Under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreigners to sue in U.S. courts for human rights abuses, Judge Justin Quackenbush allowed the case to proceed. The trial is set for June 2017.
On Tuesday, Mitchell, one of the defendants, is set to release a book titled “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America.” According to The New York Times, which obtained an early copy, Mitchell defends his torture program, saying his “unpleasant” techniques “protected detainees from being subjected to unproven and perhaps harsher techniques made up on the fly that could have been much worse.”
The effectiveness of Mitchell and Jessen’s program was questioned in a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report, however, which concluded the “inhumane physical or psychological techniques are counterproductive because they do not produce intelligence and will probably result in false answers.”