The two psychologists whose company made more than $80 million helping draw up the CIA’s interrogation-torture program were sued Tuesday by three former war-on-terror US detainees who claim they were waterboarded, forced into tiny boxes, starved, chained, deprived of sleep, and beaten while naked.
The suit names James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, who were inspired by psychological work on dogs. Their work centered on a state of “learned helplessness” from ongoing mental and physical abuse that they believed would help interrogators coerce confessions out of detainees. Their company, Mitchell, Jessen & Associates of Spokane, Washington, was contracted in 2001 after the authorities found literature in a suspected terrorist’s apartment in England discussing how to defeat interrogation. But this contract ended in 2009, when President Barack Obama signed an executive order terminating what was labeled as an “enhanced interrogation program.”
“These psychologists devised and supervised an experiment to degrade human beings and break their bodies and minds,” said Dror Ladin, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney. “It was cruel and unethical, and it violated a prohibition against human experimentation that has been in place since World War II.” The suit accuses them of personally taking part in the torture and of overseeing the torture program’s implementation.