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ACLU sues architects of sadistic torture program designed to break human beings

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As John Knefel argues for the Nation, the Obama administration’s refusal to prosecute officials responsible for devising and implementing torture programs at the CIA and US military has left efforts aimed at truth and reconciliation to independent advocates—journalists, lawyers, and artists among them.

Long a leader of those efforts in the United States, today the ACLU filed suit on behalf of victims of the US government’s post-9/11 torture regime. The lawsuit targets two former US Army psychologists the CIA contracted to develop and implement a sadistic interrogation program aimed at breaking human beings. The US government paid James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen tens of millions of dollars to turn their expertise in training US soldiers to endure torture into programs designed to psychologically destroy men held by the United States after 9/11. And they did.

The torture program was designed to test the theory of learned helplessness on human beings, a theory first developed through experimentation on dogs. The theory says that when subjected to arbitrary and severe punishment, animals will become totally helpless. As applied to interrogation, Jessen and Mitchell wanted to see if this helplessness produced confessions or substantial intelligence. If we break someone, they will tell us everything. It was a theory that didn’t comport with the facts. It was illegal and immoral. And it was human experimentation.

Check out the ACLU’s page on the torture experiments to learn lots more about the development and execution of the Bush administration’s sadistic torture regime, and read more about the lawsuit against the men who designed it.

© 2024 ACLU of Massachusetts.