In the wake of the August 17, 2017 out-of -court settlement of a lawsuit against two American psychologists, Dr. Bruce Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell, who helped devise the Central Intelligence Agency’s brutal interrogation program, it appears that probably “due to national security” the American government wanted to keep the details of the CIA’s brutality out of the public domain. Did this kind of thinking influence – or dictate – the Canadian government’s decision to settle the Omar Khadr case for $10 million?
The settlement with the psychologists, came after a judge last month urged resolving the case before it headed to a jury trial in early September.
Lawyers for the three plaintiffs in the suit – filed in 2015 in Federal District Court in Spokane, Wash. – said the former prisoners were tortured at secret C.I.A. detention sites.
Omar Ahmed Sayid Khadr (born September 19, 1986) is a Canadian citizen who was detained by the United States at Guantanamo Bay for ten years, from the age of 16, during which he pleaded guilty to the murder of U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Speer and other charges. He later appealed his conviction, claiming that he falsely pleaded guilty so that he could return to Canada. Khadr sued the Canadian government for infringing his rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; this lawsuit was settled in 2017 with a $10.5 million (USD 8 million) payment and an apology by the federal government.
In a 2002 memo, the U.S. psychologists proposed harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, stuffing prisoners into small boxes, forcing them to hold painful positions for hours and slamming them into flexible walls. The C.I.A. adopted nearly all of these methods.
Moreover, a 6,700-page Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Torture lists 38 men known to have been subjected to torture in C.I.A. prisons. In the report, senators denounced the methods as brutal and denounced the C.I.A. for providing false and misleading information to federal officials about the interrogation program’s effectiveness.
Although Gul Rahman, who died in C.I.A. custody in Afghanistan in 2002 – probably of hypothermia – was the only one of three detainees the psychologist came in direct contact with – according to an agency investigation into his death – the judge ruled that a trial could also proceed on behalf of the two other former prisoners — Mr. Ben Soud and Suleiman Salim – whose lawyers argued that the psychologists had aided and abetted their torture.
Both Mr. Ben Soud – a Libyan detained by the C.I.A. in 2003 – and Mr. Salim – a Tanzanian also captured in 2003 – were held in Afghanistan, safely out of the public domain. Mr. Ben Soud was locked in small boxes, slammed against a wall and doused with buckets of ice water while naked and shackled. Mr. Salim was beaten, isolated in a dark cell for months, doused with water and deprived of sleep.
Meanwhile, the Canadian public doesn’t know the details of the torture Mr. Khadr suffered at the hands of U.S. interrogators, which Canadian officials aided and abetted.
The details of the brutality Mr Khadr suffered would most likely have been introduced in court if the Canadian government had not settled his lawsuit.
In the U.S. case, the plaintiffs said that Dr. Jessen and Mitchell, former military psychologists, profited from their work as contractors for the C.I.A. The men received up to $1,800 a day and later formed a company that was paid about $81 million to help operate the interrogation program over several years.
James T. Smith, the psychologists’ lead counsel, said in a statement that his clients were “public servants whose actions in regard to the interrogation of suspected terrorists were authorized by the U.S. government, legal and done in an effort to protect innocent lives.”
This may explain why the United States government agreed to indemnify the men and their company, including paying legal fees, judgements and settlements up to $5 million, according to a document made public in the lawsuit.
However, the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were later condemned as illegal under United States and international law and were ultimately banned. The American Psychological Association subsequently prohibited its members from participating in national security interrogations.
Dror Ladin, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped bring the suit, called the case “a historic victory for our clients and for the rule of law.”
In a phone interview, one of the plaintiffs, Mohamed Ben Soud, said through a translator:
“I feel that justice has been served. Our goal from the beginning was justice and for people to know what happened in this black hole that was run by the C.I.A.’s offices.”
It is telling that a significant part of the Canadian public is outraged – egged on by conservative politicians such as current Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer and former Conservative Party leader and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper – by the $10 million settlement Mr. Khadr received, yet neither Mr. Scheer or Mr. Harper has any interest whatsoever in informing the Canadian public of the details – or any other information for that matter – of the torture Mr. Khadr suffered, which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Canadian government was complicit in.