CIA Contracted 'Torturers' James Mitchell and Idaho-Born Bruce Jessen Sued by ACLU 

click to enlarge Bruce Jessen (right) at a survival school training facility in Fort Bragg, N.C. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Bruce Jessen (right) at a survival school training facility in Fort Bragg, N.C.

A pair of former Air Force psychologists who engineered the United States' "enhanced interrogation" program are being sued.

The suit, filed Oct. 13 by the American Civil Liberties Union, is aimed at Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, who were contracted by the Central Intelligence Agency in the early 2000s to devise an interrogation system, which has been labeled "torture" by organizations ranging from the American Psychological Association to the United Nations.

The ACLU filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington on behalf of three men who were detained and subjected to the harsh system: Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman, who died following his time spent in the CIA's secret prisons.

According to the ACLU, Jessen and Mitchell are being sued under the Alien Tort Statute, which covers "torture; cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; non-consensual human experimentation; and war crimes." 

Jessen, an Idaho native, grew up in the eastern Idaho community of Ashton, where his family was prominent in the local Mormon church. Jessen attended then-Ricks College in Rexburg and went on to earn degrees in psychology at Utah State University.

While serving in the Air Force, Jessen and Mitchell were stationed at the Fairchild Air Force Base survival school in Spokane, Wash., where they were introduced to many of the interrogation practices that would later be used in the CIA's so-called "black sites."

Retired colonels, the pair formed a consulting company in Spokane called Mitchell, Jessen and Associates, which contracted with the CIA to develop the enhanced interrogation program. From 2002-2006, their contract was worth upwards of $180 million.

Mitchell currently lives in Florida and has given several interviews in which he defends the Bush era interrogation methods, while Jessen, who lives outside Spokane, has kept a much lower profile.

While the U.S. Senate voted in June to officially ban torture—with Idaho Sens. Crapo and Risch voting "nay"—the U.S. Justice Department and President Barack Obama have consistently declined to prosecute anyone found to have been involved in the so-called torture program, which was detailed in an unprecedented report released Dec. 2014.

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