SPOKANE, Wash. – CIA officials announced the settlement of a federal torture lawsuit against two psychologists formerly based out of the Spokane area on Thursday. James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen had faced federal charges for designing and implementing a harsh CIA interrogation program.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued Mitchell and Jessen last October on behalf of three former CIA prisoners.
The lawsuit alleged that the psychologists, despite having no expertise on al-Qaida, devised an interrogation program for the CIA that drew from 1960s experiments involving dogs and the theory of "learned helplessness," the Associated Press reported.
The ACLU said one of the prisoners, Gul Rahman, died because of the torture program. The ACLU reports an autopsy and internal CIA review found the cause of death to be hypothermia caused “in part by being forced to sit on the bare concrete floor without pants” with contributing factors of “dehydration, lack of food, and immobility due to ‘short chaining.’”
Thursday, experts told the Associated Press the settlement marked the first time the CIA or its private contractors have been held accountable for the harsh interrogation program.
“The deal in the lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union also makes it unlikely the CIA will again pursue the tactics, which included beatings and waterboarding, said Deborah Pearlstein, professor at the Cardozo Law School in New York,” the Associated Press reported.
The trial had been scheduled for September 5. Earlier this year, experts had said if the case went to trial they expected the proceedings to reveal some secret information in the war on terror. Previously, other lawsuits accusing the CIA of a harsh torture program were dismissed because the government argued that letting things proceed would reveal state secrets.
The ACLU said the full terms of the settlement agreement are confidential.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.