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'Torture isn't Politics' 

New developments in a controversial, ongoing city investigation; plus, two Spokane psychologists are headed to court

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THIS WEEK IN STRAUB

The past week represented a whirlwind of events in the saga of FRANK STRAUB, the former Spokane police chief forced to resign in September. The Spokane City Council voted to extend the contract of Kris Cappel, the independent investigator hired to assess how the city has handled the Straub situation, to April 30 and to pay her up to $25,000 more. Cappel also has been given the ability to access public records without needing to wait for the city's legal team to redact privileged information.

In the coming week, Cappel will interview central players, including Mayor David Condon and City Administrator Theresa Sanders.

So far, Assistant City Attorney Erin Jacobson has chosen not to participate in Cappel's investigation, citing concerns about attorney-client privilege. Jacobson was repeatedly warned about Straub's behavior, according to records. Earlier this month, Jacobson sent in her letter of resignation.

Other key witnesses also have been reticent about participating, some citing concerns about retaliation. Partly in response, Condon announced Monday that he was setting up a third-party hotline where employees could report concerns about workplace behavior.

Meanwhile, Straub's $4 million lawsuit is proceeding. In Straub's testimony, he says that Condon and Sanders threatened him with making the allegations against him public if he didn't resign.

"If misconduct was used to terminate me," Straub says he was told, "the media would want all the details of the misconduct."

Straub added that he's had trouble finding a new job, because communications from potential employers have all been "dropped with a quick visit to the internet."

The lawsuit's documents also show that on Sept. 22, at 1:32 pm, city spokesman Brian Coddington sent Straub a draft of the police chief's resignation letter claiming that Straub had "decided to leave" the department. This was only a half-hour after Coddington had denied to the Spokesman-Review that he had heard that Straub's job was in any danger. (DANIEL WALTERS)

INTERROGATING THE INTERROGATORS

In what the ACLU is calling a "critical and unprecedented step" in holding two psychologists accountable for their alleged role in the CIA's post-9/11 torture program, two men (and the family of another man who died) who claim they were kidnapped and tortured under the program will have their day in federal court in Spokane.

Until now, the ACLU says, the United States government has thwarted efforts to prosecute those accused in the CIA'S TORTURE PROGRAM, claiming "state secret privilege," a rule that allows the head of an executive department to withhold evidence in a court case on the grounds that releasing such information is a threat to national security.

Spokane psychologists James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen are defendants in the ACLU's suit, which accuses the men of contracting with the CIA to design, implement and oversee the "detention and interrogation" program. One of the plaintiffs died in captivity, the ACLU's suit says.

The suit, filed late last year, came after the release of a damning U.S. Senate report on Mitchell and Jessen's interrogation tactics, which relied on beatings, sleep deprivation, starvation, waterboarding and more. The men were paid $81 million for their work. Earlier this year, Mitchell and Jessen tried to get the case dismissed by arguing that their actions are "entangled with political decisions," and the court cannot rule against them "without implicitly questioning, and even condemning, U.S. policy on the war against al-Qa'ida."

In an article on the ACLU's website, staff attorney Dror Ladin disagrees, writing that "torture isn't politics — it's a war crime." The hearing is set for April 22 at 9 am at the federal courthouse in Spokane. (MITCH RYALS)

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