US judge orders top CIA officials to testify over torture program

US judge orders top CIA officials to testify over torture program

Thu Oct 6, 2016 5:5PM

A US federal judge has ordered former high-ranking CIA officials to testify in a lawsuit against the psychologists who designed the spy agency’s torture techniques after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

US District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush in Spokane, Washington, issued the order Tuesday.

Among those ordered to give depositions under oath in the next few months are John Rizzo, the CIA’s former chief lawyer, and Jose Rodriguez, the head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center after the 9/11 attacks.

The judge also ordered current CIA lawyer Jonathan Fredman and retired intelligence officer James Cotsana to testify, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The case was brought by the ACLU on behalf of three men — Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Gul Rahman and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud.

The men claim they were tortured using techniques developed by CIA-contracted psychologists James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen. The depositions were requested by Mitchell and Jessen.

The two psychologists designed the interrogation methods and took part in sessions with CIA prisoners, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the torture program.

“This order affirms that our judicial system can handle claims of CIA torture,” said ACLU attorney Dror Ladin. “For years, claims of secrecy shut the courthouse doors to survivors, but the systematic abuse of prisoners can’t be swept under the rug forever.”

The CIA’s torture program, which was ended by US President Barack Obama in 2009, has been widely documented in recent years, including in an exhaustive investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Techniques designed by Mitchell and Jessen and applied to the three plaintiffs included starving them, exposing them to extreme temperatures, slamming them into walls, inflicting various kinds of water torture , stuffing them inside coffin-like boxes, chaining them in stress positions designed for pain and to keep them awake for several days, the ACLU says.

Mitchell and Jessen have in court documents said they used harsh tactics, but deny allegations of torture and war crimes.

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