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Lawsuit over CIA interrogation tactics moves forward; plus, Idaho video-chat abortion controversy ends up in legislature's lap

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TORTURED LOGIC

A federal judge in Spokane allowed a lawsuit against two Spokane psychologists to move forward last week, as internal CIA emails reveal concerns over the psychologists put in charge of developing and implementing interrogation tactics, which included WATERBOARDING, sleep deprivation and starvation.

The psychologists, James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen, contracted with the CIA to develop and implement interrogation tactics used on suspected terrorists after the 9/11 attacks.

Recently released internal CIA documents reveal deep concerns over the two psychologists' ethics and qualifications.

"If some untoward outcome is later to be explained, their sole use in this role will be indefensible," one internal memo reads. The men "have both shown blatant disregard for the ethics shared by almost all of their colleagues," states another.

The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three men who claim they were tortured using Mitchell and Jessen's harsh methods. One of the men, Gul Rahman, died two weeks after he was detained. Rahman was drenched with water and left overnight in a frigid prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit, according to an investigation into his death.

The attorney for the two psychologists tried to get the case thrown out, arguing that Mitchell and Jessen should be granted qualified immunity because of their work as government agents.

U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush denied the motion last week. The trial is scheduled for June. (MITCH RYALS)

ABORTIONS AND VIDEO CHAT

Thanks to a recent Idaho U.S. District Court ruling, the socially conservative Idaho Legislature faces a choice: Either fix two 2015 laws banning doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing medication over the phone or video chat services, or have the laws declared unconstitutional.

The first law mandated that doctors be in the room when prescribing abortive medication, while the second — a bill that regulated telemedicine — specifically precluded prescribing abortion-causing pills long-distance.

"The court hereby finds that the challenged laws provide few, if any, health benefits for women and that these benefits, if any, are outweighed by the burden these laws impose on access to abortion," Idaho District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill wrote. Therefore, Winmill concluded, the laws imposed an "undue burden" on abortion access and violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

"The restrictions we challenged are an affront to women and just bad public health policy," said Chris Charbonneau of the regional chapter of PLANNED PARENTHOOD. If the Idaho Legislature refuses to change the laws, the state could not only be on the hook for court fees, the ruling could set a precedent that could impact similar laws in other states.

Kerry Uhlenkott, legislative coordinator for Right to Life of Idaho, calls Winmill a "very activist pro-abortion judge" and maintains that the telemedicine restriction was a good one.

"This law is in effect in 16 other states," Uhlenkott says. "The doctor should be present to ensure the [woman's] physical and emotional safety." (DANIEL WALTERS)

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