CIA Psychologists Admit Role In ‘Enhanced Interrogation’ Program In Court Filing



It’s the first time someone with responsibility for the torture program has legally acknowledged their actions.

WASHINGTON — Two psychologists who helped the CIA develop and execute its now-defunct “enhanced interrogation” program partially admitted for the first time to roles in what is broadly acknowledged to have been torture.

In a 30-page court filing posted Tuesday evening, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen responded to nearly 200 allegations and legal justifications put forth by the American Civil Liberties Union in a complaint filed in October. The psychologists broadly denied allegations that “they committed torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, non-consensual human experimentation and/or war crimes” — but admitted to a series of actions that can only be described as such.

“Defendants admit that over a period of time, they administered to [Abu] Zubaydah walling, facial and abdominal slaps, facial holds, sleep deprivation, and waterboarding, and placed Zubaydah in cramped confinement,” the filing says.

The American Psychological Association issued a lengthy report last year acknowledging members of the profession collaborated with the CIA and Pentagon on the torture program, and apologized. But until now, no psychologist has ever been called to account in court.

Mitchell has spoken publicly in the past about his role in the program and wrote an autobiographical account of the experience that had been scheduled for publication May 10, but was postponed indefinitely, likely due to the lawsuit. Jessen, however, has not previously admitted to the acts described in Tuesday’s court filing.

“This is historic. Until now, no one responsible for the CIA torture program has ever been forced to admit their actions in court,” Dror Ladin, the lead ACLU attorney in the case, said in a statement. “The psychologists’ admissions include key details, and their denials are hard to square with the public record.”

Mitchell and Jessen admitted to placing Zubaydah, the CIA’s first detainee, “in boxes of the variety described” by the ACLU. One box the ACLU wrote about in its complaint was the size of a coffin. The other was considerably smaller, forcing Zubaydah to crouch in a fetal position to fit inside.

The methodical response to a litany of torture allegations makes for bizarre reading. For example, the psycholgists admit to throwing Zubaydah into a wall repeatedly — but they challenge the ACLU’s use of the term “wall slamming.” It’s “walling,” they say.

The two psychologists also admit that they were paid $1,800 a day by the CIA for their work as contractors, and that their company received a total of $81 million from the agency.

… the psycholgists admit to throwing Zubaydah into a wall repeatedly — but they challenge the group’s use of the term “wall slamming.” It’s “walling,” they say.

Details of the torture program remain under seal, despite the public release of theexecutive summary of a Senate Intelligence Committee report. Government classification restrictions and a non-disclosure agreement with the CIA, the defendants say, hinders their “ability to respond fully to the Complaint’s allegations.”

Tuesday’s admissions came in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the ACLU, which is representing two former CIA prisoners and the family of a third who died in CIA custody.

Mitchell and Jessen both worked at the Air Force Survival Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape school in Spokane, Washington, before joining the CIA. They denied the allegations related specifically to the treatment of three men who are plaintiffs in the ACLU suit.

They admitted “upon information and belief” to knowing that Gul Rahman is dead. But they claimed to be unfamiliar with the other two plaintiffs, Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ben Soud.

The ACLU is likely to argue that their clients’ treatment was the direct result of the program Mitchell and Jessen admitted to developing for use against Zubaydah.

The first court hearing in the case was held in April in Spokane, Washington, where Senior Judge Justin L. Quackenbush of the Eastern District of Washington denied Mitchell and Jessen’s request to have the case thrown out.

Jessica Schulberg

Read Mitchell and Jessen’s response to the ACLU complaint

U.S. to tell Americans why they’re on no-fly list

Americans on the no-fly list can now get information about why they've been banned from flights.
Americans on the no-fly list can now get information about why they’ve been banned from flights | Attribution: none


Americans on the United States’ no-fly list will now be privy to information about why they have been banned from commercial flights and be given the opportunity to dispute their status, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department this week.

The revised policy comes in response to a June ruling by a federal judge that said the old process was in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process. The decision was part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit brought on behalf of 13 Americans on the list.

But the ACLU isn’t satisfied with the government’s new policy, outlined in documents filed Monday in federal courts in Oregon (PDF) and Virginia (PDF).

“After years of fighting in court for complete secrecy and losing, it’s good that the government is finally now going to tell people of their status on the No Fly List,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project and the lead attorney on the case, in a statement.

“Unfortunately, we’ve found that the government’s new redress process falls far short of constitutional requirements because it denies our clients meaningful notice, evidence, and a hearing. The government had an opportunity to come up with a fair process but failed, so we’re challenging it in court again.”

People on the no-fly list, managed by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, are prohibited from boarding a commercial flight for travel into or out of the United States.

The number of people on the list is classified. An official with knowledge of the government’s figures told CNN in 2012 that the list contained about 21,000 names, including about 500 Americans.

Before the change, American citizens and permanent residents who inquired with the government about being denied aircraft boarding received a letter that neither confirmed nor denied their inclusion on the no-fly list. Now, they’ll be made aware of their status if they apply for redress, with an option to request further information.

“The U.S. government is making enhancements to the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) to provide additional transparency and process for U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been denied boarding on a commercial aircraft because they are on the No Fly List,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

In cases in which travelers included on the list request to receive or submit more information about their status, the government will provide a second, more detailed response, identifying “specific criterion under which the individual has been placed on the No Fly List,” according to the court documents.

An unclassified summary of that information will be provided “to the extent feasible, consistent with the national security and law enforcement interests at stake,” court papers said.

Those who appear on the no-fly list will then have further opportunity to dispute their status in writing, with supporting materials or exhibits, and will receive a final written decision from the Transportation Security Administration.

The 2014 ruling that prompted the policy changes had called for passengers on the list to be given the opportunity to dispute their status before a judge.

‘No F*cking Way!’: Lewis Black Blasts Voter ID Laws in ACLU Video

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Appearing in a new ACLU video released Thursday, comedian Lewis Black hilariously rails against voter ID laws and efforts to limit early voting. Upon learning what the ACLU’s voting rights project is attempting to combat nationwide, Black cannot contain himself.

“I mean, who is denying people the right to vote?” Black asked ACLU’s Voting Rights Project DirectorDale Ho during what was staged as a behind-the-scenes photo shoot.

“You’d be surprised,” Ho responded, citing states like North Carolina and Wisconsin which he says have made it harder for its citizens to vote.

Black, who agreed to be the ACLU’s new voting rights ambassador, is surprised to learn that politicians are cutting back on early voting periods.

“What’s next, a poll tax?” Black asked. “Well…” Ho responded. “Oh, no f*cking way!” Black interjected.

“Look, people marched and fought and died for the right to vote, and they want to legislate away that sacrifice to stay in power? Not on my watch, baby,” Black said in his usual tone.

Watch the hilarious, definitely-not-staged video below, via YouTube:

Supreme Court Inaction Boosts Right To Record Police Officers

Score another one for democracy…

The Huffington Post

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court  declined to review a decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocking the enforcement of an Illinois eavesdropping law. The broadly written law — the most stringent in the country — makes it a felony to make an audio recording of someone without their permission, punishable by four to 15 years in prison.

Many states have similar “all-party consent” law, which mean one must get the permission of all parties to a conversation before recording it. But in all of those states — except for Massachusetts and Illinois — the laws include a provision that the parties being recorded must have a reasonable expectation of privacy for it to be a crime to record them.

The Illinois law once included such a provision, but it was removed by the state legislature in response to an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that threw out the conviction of a man accused of recording police from the back of a squad car. That ruling found that police on the job have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The Illinois and Massachusetts laws have been used to arrest people who attempt to record on-duty police officers and other public officials. In one of the more notorious cases, Chicago resident Tiawanda Moore was arrested in 2010 when she attempted to use her cell phone to record officers in a Chicago police station.

Moore had come to the station to report an alleged sexual assault by a Chicago cop, and says she became frustrated when internal affairs officers allegedly bullied her and attempted to talk her out of filing the report. Moore was eventually acquitted.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is planning a police accountability project in Chicago that will involve recording police while they’re on duty. The organization wanted to be sure its employees and volunteers wouldn’t be charged with felonies.

The 7th Circuit Court found a specific First Amendment right to record police officers. It’s the second federal appeals court to strike down a conviction for recording police. In August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that a man wrongly arrested for recording cops could sue the arresting officers for violating his First Amendment rights.

Continue reading here…

This week in the War on Voting: South Dakota’s shameful legacy continues

Daily Kos

The ACLU highlights just one story from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, one story that demonstrates the plight of hundreds of voters in the state.

South Dakota is trying to prevent Eileen Janis — and hundreds of other citizens — from voting.
Eileen grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and does suicide prevention work. She registered to vote for the first time in 1984. “I always vote because my mom told me to,” she says.But when she went to cast her ballot in the historic 2008 election, she found that she had been illegally removed from the voter rolls. Though she had been convicted of a felony, her sentence to probation meant that she had not lost the right to cast a ballot. “I went [to vote] with my son who had just turned 18. As soon as I tried to vote I was told no because I was a felon.”

South Dakota has a long and shameful history of disenfranchising Native Americans, so Ms. Janis’s story is far from unique. The ACLU sued on behalf of Janis and other disenfranchised South Dakotans and won. Which, of course, isn’t the end of the story. Here at Daily Kos, robbinsdale radical alerted us to the South Dakota legislature’s efforts to deny the franchise to those with criminal convictions, even those who were never sentenced to jail time. Native Americans are disproportionately represented in the South Dakota criminal system, and this effort would hit them particularly hard.

The ACLU tells how to take action:

Tell the DOJ to protect the right to vote in South Dakota and across the nation. Andurge Congress to pass the Democracy Restoration Act, which would let Eileen—and all Americans with past convictions who are living in their communities—vote in federal elections.