After a Landmark Legal Ruling, Will CIA Torture Victims Finally Have Their Day in Court?

A federal judge has allowed a landmark lawsuit to proceed against two psychologists who designed and implemented the CIA’s torture program. Psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen reaped more than $80 million for designing torture techniques used by the agency. The case was brought by Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ben Soud, two survivors of the program, along with the family of Gul Rahman, who froze to death at a CIA black site in Afghanistan.


All three men were subjected to torture techniques that Mitchell and Jessen created and helped implement, including beatings, being held in coffin-sized boxes and being hung from metal rods. We speak with ACLU lawyer Dror Ladin, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of torture victims, and with former intelligence officer Col. Steven Kleinman, who knew psychologists Mitchell and Jessen from his time at the SERE school in Spokane. SERE—Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape—is a secretive program which teaches soldiers to endure captivity in enemy hands. Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the tactics taught in SERE training for use on prisoners held in the CIA’s secret prisons.

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