Survivors of CIA torture have sued the contractor psychologists who designed one of the most infamous programs of the post-9/11 era.

In an extraordinary step, psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen now face a federal lawsuit for their role in convincing the CIA to subject terror suspects to mock drowning, painful bodily contortions, sleep and dietary deprivation and other methods long rejected by much of the world as torture.

In practice, CIA torture meant disappearances, mock executions, anal penetration performed under cover of “rehydration” and at least one man who froze to death, according to a landmark Senate report last year. Versions of the techniques migrated from the CIA’s undocumented prisons, known as black sites, to US military usage at Guantánamo Bay, Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

On behalf of torture survivors Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, as well as a representative of the estate of Gul Rahman – who froze to death in a CIA black site in Afghanistan – the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the suit against Mitchell and Jessen on Tuesday in a federal court in Washington state, where the two currently reside. They seek compensatory damages of at least $75,000.

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