The extent of the
George W. Bush Dick Cheney administration’s privatization of military intelligence operations has become painfully clear with the ACLU’s recent lawsuit against two contracted psychologists who were paid $81 million to design the CIA’s torture program. James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen have been sued for “torture, cruel and degrading punishment, war crimes and conducting an ‘experimental torture program’ as part of a ‘joint criminal enterprise’ with the nation’s top intelligence agency.”
These two war criminals formerly worked for the Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape School, which taught American military men how to resist torture and interrogation in the field. By reverse engineering those ideas, they developed the “enhanced interrogation methods” that would eventually kill Gul Rahman and subject another hundred and eighteen men, of whom at least twenty-six did not meet the CIA’s standards for detention but were held anyway, to absolutely barbaric torture methods which included waterboarding, severe beatings, starvation, extreme temperature conditions, sleep deprivation, and other horrific punishments.
The torture program was put into action with the same inherent flaws that would doom the occupation of Iraq- an astonishing lack of oversight, over reliance on well-connected but unqualified contractors, the extravagant misuse of government funds, the exploitation of the goodwill of allied nations, and blinding ideological zealotry. Shockingly, neither Mitchell nor Jessen had any “experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al Qa’ida, a background in terrorism, or any relevant regional, cultural, or linguistic expertise.” An adviser to Condaleeza Rice warned her that the program constituted a “felony war crime,” but his warning went unheeded.
By 2005, these two men had formed a company to handle the torture program, for which they were paid millions. Detention facilities were covertly established in allied nations such as Lithuania, Poland, Thailand, Romania, and Uzbekistan, the purposes for which, and in some cases, the very existence of, were not shared with the host nations. Cash bribes were also used to pacify certain governments uncomfortable with the activities taking place within their borders, including a $1 million transfer to Afghanistan, where the notorious SITE COBALT, or the “Salt Pit”, was located. These black sites cost taxpayers $300 million, two of which never even saw use. When the true nature of these facilities came to light, the host nations were understandably appalled and the fallout dealt severe blows to our relationships with said nations.
The ACLU has filed the lawsuit on behalf of Gul Rahman (one of Osama bin Laden’s former Afghan bodyguards who died in CIA custody), Suleiman Abdullah Salim (a Tanzanian fisherman who was working in Somalia when kidnapped by the CIA, held for five years, subjected to torture and released with no charges filed), and Mohammed Ben Soud (a Libyan who was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2003, tortured multiple times before being released in Libya, where he was captured again and tortured by Muammar Quaddafi’s security forces before finally seeing freedom after the 2011 regime collapse).
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.