Well, we don't have a Chutzpah Award but we do have a Clown Award, one of our regular features, and given, as always, for meritorious stupidity.
This week, the Big Red Nose goes to a psychologist named James Mitchell.
Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud were kidnapped and tortured by the CIA - excuse me, they were "subjected to enhanced interrogation" - they were kidnapped and tortured by the CIA in the period after 9/11. They are suing Mitchell and another psychologist named John "Bruce" Jessen, who were hired by the CIA to help develop the agency's torture program.
The government usually tries to short-circuit any such cases by claiming some variety of the state secrets privilege, which is itself legally bogus but that's for another time.* The problem for the torture-philes here is that the ACLU, which is representing Salim and Ben Soud, says it can litigate the case relying entirely on public records, so the "It'll harm national security!" dodge is not available and so far the government has made no move to block the case from proceeding, although it still could.
Mitchell and Jessen, who were paid at least $81 million to design torture techniques for the spooks, tried to claim they were immune from civil suits because they were working for the government. The effort failed: In a landmark decision, in mid-April federal Judge Justin Quackenbush of the Eastern District of Washington, where the suit was filed, said "I don’t think I have any other choice" but to let the suit go forward.
But of course the shrinks' lawyers weren't done - and this is where it starts to get good - now arguing that the pair, quoting, "did not create or establish the CIA enhanced interrogation program." In fact, that claim will be "a major focus" of the defense. Nope, not us, uh-uh, don't know what you're talking about.
Mitchell has written an as-yet-unpublished book called Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America. The pre-publication promotional material for the book describes Mitchell as the "creator of the CIA's controversial Enhanced Interrogation Program" and having had "a leading role in [its] development." It calls him "one of the primary terrorist interrogators" and says the book offers "a dramatic firsthand account of the design, implementation, flaws and aftermath of the program."
That is, Mitchell and his partner Jessen are claiming they had nothing to do with creating the CIA's program of torture - while Mitchell has written an entire book in which he claims to be its creator.
That is truly meritorious stupidity. James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen are both scumbags for their work - but Mitchell is truly, truly, a clown.
Quick footnote: the publication date of Mitchell's book, set for May 10, has been pushed back indefinitely. Can't think why.
Sources cited in links:
*I have written about the "state secrets privilege and why it is bogus a few times, including here and here.