The American Civil Liberties Union is suing two former U.S. Air Force psychologists who designed the Central Intelligence Agency's harsh interrogation program aimed at forcing suspected terrorists to divulge information about possible attacks against the United States.
The program was carried out during the administration of former President George W. Bush, but President Barack Obama said much of it amounted to "torture" and he abandoned its use after his inauguration.
The civil liberties group accused the psychologists of developing an interrogation program that relied on beating, sleep deprivation, starvation, waterboarding and other extreme methods that caused physical and psychological harm to prisoners held by the CIA.
The claims in the lawsuit mirror allegations made last year in a U.S. Senate report condemning the CIA's interrogation techniques.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit Tuesday in the state of Washington against James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the two psychologists who were paid $81 million by the U.S. government to devise the interrogation program that was used by the CIA in the years after al-Qaida launched the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people.
The ACLU said Mitchell and Jessen "personally took part in torture sessions and oversaw the program's implementation for the CIA. They claimed 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."
When the Senate report was released, Mitchell defended the interrogation techniques as useful in producing otherwise unobtainable intelligence for the U.S. Jessen has not spoken publicly about his alleged role.
The suit seeks unspecified damages for three suspected terrorists captured by the United States, none of whom was ever charged with a crime.
One of the suspects, Gul Rahman, was interrogated in a dungeon-like Afghanistan prison called the Salt Pit. The suit said he was subjected to lengthy spells of isolation, darkness and extreme cold water, and was later found dead of hypothermia. The other two men were eventually freed, with Suleiman Abdullah Salim now living in Tanzania and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud in Libya.
Some information is from Reuters and AP.