On At Liberty, we reflect on what justice for victims and survivors would look like, and how to ensure the government never uses these inhumane tactics again.

In 2015, the ACLU sued psychologists James Elmer Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, whom the CIA enlisted to design, implement, and oversee its post-9/11 torture program. Our clients were Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, who survived the torture, and the family of the late Gul Rahman, who was kidnapped, experimented on, and tortured to death in CIA custody.

While courts shut down every previous lawsuit involving CIA torture on secrecy and immunity grounds, our clients repeatedly prevailed against Mitchell and Jessen’s attempts to have the case dismissed. The lawsuit ultimately resulted in a historic settlement in 2017, but the traumas that the CIA inflicted on our clients and the program’s many other victims and survivors cannot be reversed.

Twenty years after 9/11, we look back on this seminal case with Mohamed, Suleiman, and Obaid Ullah (Gul Rahman’s nephew), and ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Steven Watt in this week’s episode of At Liberty. Listen to the podcast for the full discussion about what the litigation achieved, what the U.S. still needs to do to make amends to victims and survivors, and how to prevent the government from using torture in the future.


Read more about what the Biden administration can do to address the legacy of torture.