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CIA Psychologists to Face Waterboarded Defendants

James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen must testify in a pretrial hearing in 9/11 case
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2020 2:21 PM CST
These undated still photos from trial deposition video, provided by the American Civil Liberties Union, show psychologists James Mitchell, left, and John Jessen.   (Trial Evidence/ACLU via AP)

(Newser) – The trial of five men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks doesn't begin until next year, notes NPR. But a crucial pretrial hearing gets underway this week featuring the two psychologists who designed the harsh interrogation techniques, roundly described as torture, used by the CIA to elicit statements. James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen will answer questions at a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay. As the New York Times notes, the testimony will result in a notable arrangement: For the first time, the two men will be in the same room as the five defendants, "but this time, the psychologists will be the ones answering the questions," writes Carol Rosenberg. Both men personally waterboarded lead suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, adds Rosenberg.

The stakes in the pretrial hearing are large. The case against the defendants hinges on statements they gave to FBI investigators in 2007 after being transferred to Gitmo from CIA prisons, reports the Guardian. Prosecutors say these statements were given to a "clean team" of FBI investigators who did not use the harsh interrogations methods of the CIA. But the defense team is arguing that the statements should be thrown out because they were the result of the earlier "black site regimen of 'learned helplessness,'" writes Rosenberg. The psychologists' testimony also might shed light on how much of a role, if any, the FBI had in the use of the interrogation program. (The trial is due to start next January, though some are wondering whether Mohammed will live to see the case resolved.)

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