Two members of the legal team that settled a lawsuit earlier this year against the psychologists who designed and implemented a Central Intelligence Agency torture program spoke Friday afternoon at the Law School about their work on the landmark case.
Paul L. Hoffman—a civil and human rights lawyer and lecturer at the Law School—and criminal defense lawyer Lawrence S. Lustberg played major roles on the American Civil Liberties Union’s litigation team in Salim v. Mitchell, filed on behalf of three former CIA detainees. The case accused two psychologists, James E. Mitchell and John B. Jessen, of designing “cruel, inhuman” interrogation techniques that were used against detainees Suleiman A. Salim, Mohamed A. Ben Soud, and Gul Rahman in secret CIA prisons.
The case, which was settled in August, is one of the most high-profile attempts to date to hold the U.S. government accountable for using techniques considered to be torture in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“Numerous detainees have filed lawsuits challenging torture by the US government. Mr. Salim, Mr. Ben Soud were the first ones to ever have their case get this far, get to the eve of trial, get to a settlement,” Lustberg said. “Nobody had ever entered into a settlement with a CIA operative before in the history of the nation.”
More broadly, Lustberg said, the case illustrated the tension in public interest litigation between a client’s best interest and a litigation team’s cause.