On October 13, 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against two psychologists because “they designed, developed and implemented a program for the CIA” that became known as the Enhanced Interrogation Program. The lawsuit is brought on behalf of three (3) individuals who were detained and interrogated under the Enhanced Interrogation Program. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, located in Spokane, Washington.
In the Complaint filed by Suleiman Abdullah Salim, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud and, on behalf of Gul Rahman (who died while in custody), the Plaintiffs detail various enhanced interrogations techniques that they were subjected to while in custody. These techniques include “solitary confinement; constant extreme light or darkness; the perpetual loud playing of music or white noise; extreme temperatures; forced nudity or dressing solely in diapers; restrictions on food and water; shackling in painful stress positions; and prolonged sleep deprivation.” Plaintiffs also allege that, when they were deemed uncooperative, they were then subjected to more aggressive and enhanced techniques, including, for example: “prolonged sleep deprivation (seating and standing), walling, stress positions, facial slaps, abdominal slaps, dietary manipulation, facial holds, and cramped confinement (large and small boxes).” The details of the interrogation techniques alleged to have been used on Plaintiffs were noted, in large part, in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence “Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.” Plaintiffs allege that the psychologists sued in the lawsuit were responsible for designing, developing and implementing these interrogation techniques, which were designed to create a feeling of “learned helplessness” so that those interrogated would not resist providing information about potential terrorist attacks against the U.S. and its allies and interests.
The claims are asserted under the Alien Tort Claims Act on the grounds that the psychologists tortured Plaintiffs by using the interrogation techniques and subjected Plaintiffs to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of treaties, U.S. law and international legal standards. The lawsuit also alleges that the psychologists engaged in medical experimentation by using the interrogation techniques. Plaintiffs also assert that the psychologists committed war crimes through their involvement in the Enhanced Interrogation Program. Liability is premised upon the direct involvement by the psychologists in the interrogations and also on the grounds that they conspired with and aided and abetted the U.S. Government and others in using the interrogation techniques in violation of the law.
During their work on the Enhanced Interrogation Program, the psychologists functioned as contractors for the CIA through their consulting firm. The case could have important implications for businesses and individuals contracting with the U.S. Government and their exposure to potential liabilities and other adverse consequences performed at the request of the U.S. Government. The case may also highlight challenges that may be faced in attracting contractors for certain U.S. Government work in the future given the risks of performing such work.
For Further Information, Please Contact:
Nicholas P. Connon, Managing Partner; Chair, Middle East Practice Group
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