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US rights group sues psychologists linked to CIA torture program

A US rights group has filed a lawsuit against two psychologists credited with devising the CIA's torture program on behalf of three prisoners. The ACLU described the program as "unlawful and its methods barbaric."

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement on Tuesday that it filed a lawsuit against two former US Air Force psychologists for developing the

Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) torture program.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three former prisoners who were subjected to the interrogation methods developed by the CIA-contracted psychologists. One of them - Gul Rahman - died from hypothermia after being forced to sit on a concrete floor without pants on amid exposure to extreme cold water.

The two others - Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud - were released. The men were never charged for a crime.

"They claimed that their program was scientifically based, safe and proven, when in fact it was none of those things. The program was unlawful and its methods barbaric," said Steven Watt, a senior staff attorney with ACLU's Human Rights Program.

'Learned helplessness'

Psychologists James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen

developed an interrogation program for the CIA based on "learned helplessness" experiments, which were previously conducted on dogs in the 1960s.

"According to Mitchell and Jessen's theory, if humans were psychologically destroyed through torture and abuse, they would become totally unable to resist demands for information," the ACLU said in a statement.

The ACLU said that both Mitchell and Jessen also took part several torture sessions and supervised the program.

Mitchell and Jessen "designed the torture methods and performed illegal human experimentation on CIA prisoners to test and refine the program," the ACLU noted.

'Torture for profit'

The CIA paid more than $80 million (70.3 million euros) to the psychologists' company Mitchell, Jessen & Associates from 2005 to 2009, according to a

US Senate report.

The CIA also provided between $1 million to $5 million (0.9 million to 4.4 million euros) to the company to protect it from legal liability.

"Psychologists have an ethical responsibility to 'do no harm,' but Mitchell and Jessen's actions rank among the worst medical crimes in US history," said Donny McKay, Physicians for Human Rights' executive director.

ls/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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