A federal judge in Spokane Washington said that he won’t dismiss a lawsuit filed against two Washington state psychologist who helped design interrogation techniques for the CIA’s war on terror. The decision marks an important set forward in a case surrounding the treatment of terror suspects and is likely to include previously undisclosed information on how the government treats terrorist suspects.
The ACLU sued the two psychologists last year on behalf of three former CIA prisoners, accusing them of endorsing and teaching torture tactics under the guide of science. The suit alleges that the two have no expertise on al-Qaida and devised the interrogation program from experiments conducted on dogs in the 1960’s, and a psychological theory called “learned helplessness”
“The defendants committed war crimes” said Dror Ladin, an attorney for the ACLU “This case is about the treatment of prisoners.”
The attorney for the defendants claims that they simply designed a program, but were not involved in carrying it out, noting that “the government controlled every facet of the decision making process” adding that the defendants “did not decide who was dealt with or how”.
The interrogation program has since been discontinued and widely discredited.
Judge Justin Quackenbush said that he would allow the suit to move forward, which alleges the two defendants aided and abetted the enhanced interrogation program.
The three prisoners who are the subject of the suit were alleged to have been interrogated at a CIA-run prisons, including one in Afghanistan known as the “Salt Pit”, where prisoners are subjected to isolation, darkness, and extreme cold water. One was later found dead from hypothermia.
Interrogation practices by the CIA have long been shrouded in secrecy, having just recently become the subject of law suits, as well as political and citizen-level outrage. Reports showing sleep deprivation, waterboarding, and beatings, all of which went far beyond the legal limits without yielding lifesaving intelligence.
The ACLU claims that not only did the psychologists have a hand in developing the methods of interrogation, but also took part in torture sessions to test the program. Interrogation methods included slamming prisoners into walls, stuffing them inside coffin-like boxes, exposure to extreme temperatures, loud music, starvation, and various kinds of water torture. The psychologists, who operated a company based in Spokane, were paid $81 million dollars over several years for the program’s development.