They suspected their actions were illegal – but did them anyway

Alex Emmons writes about a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against two psychologists James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen who received lucrative government contracts to devise the most abusive torture methods used by the government. Their work was supervised by Gina Haspel who has been appointed by Donald Trump as deputy director of the CIA.

Haspel ran a secret prison in Thailand in 2002, part of the CIA’s global network of “black sites.” That prison — codenamed “DETENTION SITE GREEN” by Senate investigators — was the site of the CIA’s first prisoner interrogations after the 9/11 attacks, and Haspel supervised them. She later took part in covering up the abuses, helping to destroy 92 videotapes of interrogations against the Senate’s wishes.

The Senate torture report does not mention Haspel by name, but details the role of the prison’s station chief in the horrific torture of detainee Abu Zubaydah, who the CIA waterboarded until he became “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”

The defense is seeking Hempel’s testimony to support their claim that everything they did was authorized by the CIA, and the Trump administration is seeking to prevent her from being forced to give a deposition.

What struck me about the story was this bit.

The lawsuit against Mitchell and Jessen is the first torture lawsuit the Department of Justice did not try to block in its entirety. Although the government is not a direct party to the case, it is paying Mitchell and Jessen’s legal fees. Knowing they could face legal liability for their actions, the CIA provided Mitchell and Jessen with a multi-million dollar indemnification contract in 2007 – meaning that if they were sued for their actions, taxpayers would foot the bill.

So they realized all along that what they were doing was not only morally wrong but illegal and liable for damages as well but they went ahead and did it and shifted the cost to us.


  1. says

    The CIA cannot authorize a citizen to violate US law, specifically 18 U.S. Code Chapter 113C -- TORTURE
    to which they are conspired:

    (1) “torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
    (2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
    (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
    (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
    (C) the threat of imminent death; or
    (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
    (3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.

    A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.

    Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

    Even psychologists aren’t stupid enough to be able to say “we didn’t suspect this was a capital crime we were conspiring to do.”

    Note: the APA has not sanctioned them at all. Delenda psychologists.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    All the other reports spell the Top Torturer’s name as Haspel, not Hempel.

    What have y’all-el been smoking-el?

  3. Jean says

    I must reiterate what I mentioned on Marcus’ blog when he posted the same law: it is beyond absurd that a law that describes a threat of imminent death as being one possible torture action also defines the punishment as the death penalty (which is basically a threat of imminent death).

    That shows that the action is not what is unacceptable but rather who is doing it.

  4. says

    I don’t think the death penalty is ever appropriate; I don’t think the state or its agents ever have the right to take a citizen (of their state, or any other)’s life as a response to the citizen’s actions. However, I also don’t believe that a state has the right to conspire to torture citizens -- that includes a broad range of existing conspiracies in the US Government’s portfolio of crimes against humanity, including “extreme rendition” which is clearly conspiracy to commit torture. The sensory overload/deprivation techniques that the immoral psychologists cooked up are clearly designed to be unpleasant (therefore torture) as are forced anal ‘feeding’ which is clearly sexual torture. The immoral psychologists who were paid millions by their co-conspirators to cook up and implement these techniques knew they were going to be used to ‘break’ or disorient prisoners, or as part of ‘softening up’ for interrogation: that’s torture. And waterboarding is also clearly torture -- the US even put Japanese prison camp officials to death after WWII for using the technique on American prisoners. (Though US soldiers used the technique on Vietnamese civilians and suspected vietcong, and it was not even investigated!) The US’ use of solitary confinement is also problematic.

    What is particularly depressing is that the Obama administration (and now the Trump administration)’s response to torture appears to be “just kill them” with a special forces assassination team or a drone strike.

  5. says

    The APA, at least, says: ( )

    Position on Ethics and Interrogation

    The American Psychological Association’s (APA) position on torture is clear and unequivocal:

    Any direct or indirect participation in any act of torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by psychologists is strictly prohibited. There are no exceptions.

    Of course, since the criminals have already pocketed millions of dollars, and the APA doesn’t appear to actually de-certify anyone, or take away their chaise longue or anything, it’s a pretty pointless bunch of hot air coming from the APA.

    By the way, the UN special rapporteur on torture has unequivocally said that that’s what’s going on at Gitmo. Which means that everyone involved is part of a massive conspiracy.

    Hey, FBI, this could be bigger than benghaaaaaaaazi!!

  6. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Mano --

    You have the name wrong. It’s Gina HASPEL.

    NOT Hempel.

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