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CIA ‘torture psychologists’ avoid trial with secret settlement

WASHINGTON: Two psychologists who helped design the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation program settled a lawsuit on Thursday by detainees alleging they were illegally tortured.

The secret settlement in the suit, brought on behalf of two living ex-detainees and one who died of hypothermia after brutal questioning in US custody, avoided what would have been the first public trial of the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture on suspected Al-Qaeda members.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought the suit in 2015 against psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who were recruited by the CIA in 2002 to design and help conduct interrogations of war-on-terror suspects captured in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The two were paid around $80 million for their work, which included helping interrogate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks by Al-Qaeda, and Abu Zubaydah, another top Al-Qaeda suspect.

The suit accused Mitchell and Jessen of responsibility for the CIA’s use of torture methods like water-boarding, starvation and chaining prisoners in extreme stress positions.

It was filed on behalf of former detainees Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, and the family of Gul Rahman, who died in a CIA “black prison” in 2002 during days of interrogation.

The ACLU had sought to pin responsibility in part on the psychologists, as well as gain a significant financial award for the men and Rahman’s family. The trial had been set to begin on September 5.

The ACLU declined to give any details of the settlement, including whether there was a financial component.

“We brought this case seeking accountability and to help ensure that no one else has to endure torture and abuse, and we feel that we have achieved our goals,” the plaintiffs said in a joint statement.

“We were able to tell the world about horrific torture, the CIA had to release secret records, and the psychologists and high-level CIA officials were forced to answer our lawyers’ questions,” they said.

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