SPOKANE (AP) — Defense attorneys in a lawsuit filed by three men who claim they were victims of waterboarding and other torture by the CIA are battling over the release of secret documents related to their interrogations in the war on terror.
The lawsuit targets psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who ran a Spokane-based company that made millions of dollars from the CIA to develop methods to extract information that included waterboarding, starvation and sleep deprivation.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union, who represent the three former detainees, told U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush on Tuesday that they have all the information they need to proceed in the case.
However, Andrew Warden, an attorney for the Justice Department, suggested delays may be needed until President Donald Trump’s newly appointed CIA director Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have time to review the case to decide whether to release key documents, The Spokesman-Review reported.
Quackenbush asked why the new administration had anything to do with the case.
“This started months ago when you had a long-serving director of the CIA and attorney general,” the judge said.
Attorney Brian Paszamant, who represents Jessen and Mitchell, said he needs access to redacted government files to defend his clients.
Taxpayers footing bill
During the telephone hearing, Quackenbush noted that taxpayers are footing the defense bill for Mitchell and Jessen.
“The government is spending large sums of taxpayers’ money in the positions it’s taken thus far in this case,” Quackenbush said.
The cost represents “a total figure that would almost equal a reasonable settlement in this case,” he noted.
Quackenbush conceded, however, that the questions involving sensitive records and the upcoming deposition of one plaintiff in South Africa could cause him to delay the trial currently scheduled for June 26.
The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by the ACLU, representing Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud and the estate of Gul Rahman.
Rahman was taken from his home in Pakistan in 2002 to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. He died of hypothermia several weeks later after being shackled to a floor in near-freezing conditions.
The lawsuit says Salim and Ben Soud endured waterboarding, daily beatings and sleep deprivation while inside CIA facilities where Jessen and Mitchell developed and sometimes took part in the interrogations.
A U.S. Senate investigation later found that Mitchell and Jessen’s techniques produced no actionable intelligence in the war on terror.
President Barack Obama terminated the contract with the pair in 2009.