Human rights groups marked a significant “moment of reckoning” on Tuesday for the U.S. torture program used by the CIA following the attacks of September 11, 2001 as the two psychologists who developed the program arrived in Guantanamo Bay to testify under oath.
James E. Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen are testifying for the first time since 2017 as part of pre-trial proceedings in the trial of five men accused of plotting the September 11 attacks. A military commission judge is currently considering whether statements made by the defendants can be considered voluntary and used in the trial, considering they were made after the men had been tortured using Mitchell and Jessen’s tactics.
“Mitchell and Jessen, along with collaborators in the U.S. government, are responsible for shameful cruelty that the CIA is still trying to cover up. It is essential that the full story of the government’s torture program be brought out.”
—Dror Ladin, ACLU”The perverse ‘work’ of these psychologists has dramatically set back the global fight against torture,” said Julia Hall, a counterterrorism expert with Amnesty International who is attending this week’s hearings. “The interrogation methods they championed have had a rippling effect around the world.”
Jessen and Mitchell will be questioned by the Guantanamo military commission about their role in the program, which they both designed and implemented while contracting with the CIA.
The torture methods used under the program included waterboarding, assault, stuffing prisoners inside coffin-like boxes, exposing them to extreme temperatures, starving them, chaining them in stress positions designed to induce pain, and keeping them awake for days on end.
On Monday, ahead of the hearing, a former taxi driver and Guantanamo prisoner named Ahmed Rabbani, who has been held for 17 years without charge, published an op-ed in Newsweek.
“A ‘sorry’ would be nice,” wrote Rabbani of the CIA torture he endured. In the op-ed, he explained:
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