Ex-CIA Psychologist Defends 'Enhanced Interrogation' Program

Friday, 18 Apr 2014 03:00 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The psychologist who devised the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” techniques has slammed the Senate Intelligence Committee report condemning the alleged torture tactics employed by the agency against terror suspects.

Dr. James Mitchell, a retired Air Force psychologist, defended the program and said that he was just doing his duty as requested by top-level government officials when he came up with the CIA’s detention and interrogation methods, according to The Guardian.

In first interview since he was linked to the program, Mitchell told the newspaper, "The narrative that's out there is, I walked up to the gate of the CIA, knocked on the door and said: 'Let me in, I want to torture people, and I can show you how to do it.' Or someone put out an ad on Craigslist that said, 'Wanted: psychologist who is willing to design torture program.' It's a lot more complicated than that.

"I'm just a guy who got asked to do something for his country by people at the highest level of government, and I did the best that I could."

Mitchell, who has been accused of being involved in the waterboarding of CIA detainee Abu Zubaydah in 2002, is featured prominently in the controversial $40 million Senate report, which said that the techniques he devised were excessively cruel and ineffective in producing valuable intelligence.

The tactics included waterboarding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, confinement in a box and being slammed into walls, The Guardian noted.

But Mitchell, who was also reported to have personally supervised the waterboarding of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, pushed back against the committee while saying the success of the program has been deliberately disregarded.

"The people on the ground did the best they could with the way they understood the law at the time," he told The Guardian, speaking by phone from his home in Land O'Lakes, Fla.
"You can't ask someone to put their life on the line and think and make a decision without the benefit of hindsight and then eviscerate them in the press 10 years later."

He continued, "I'm skeptical about the Senate report, because I do not believe that every analyst whose jobs and promotions depended upon it, who were professional intelligence experts, all them lied to protect a program? All of them were wrong? All of these [CIA] directors were wrong? All of the people who were using the intel to go get people were wrong? And 10 years later a Senate staffer was able to put it together and finally there’s clarity? I am just highly skeptical that that’s the truth."

Mitchell pointed out that people believe that the interrogation of al-Qaeda terror suspects in the wake of the 9/11 attacks was similar to torture scenes they had seen on the Fox TV drama “24,” which starred Kiefer Sutherland as counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer.

"The people who have this Jack Bauer mentality, I think, don't understand how intel networks work, how threat matrixes are put together, and how intel is used. I think this idea that you tape a guy's hands to the steering wheel and break his thumbs and he tells you where the bomb is and you go get it is a fantasy. That's something you see on TV. That's not what really happens."

Mitchell fiercely defended the Bush administration’s counterterrorism program while accusing partisan Democrats of "throwing me under the bus” and "rewriting history."

Although he said he was "not a Republican," he called Obamacare "a s**t sandwich" and described global warming as a myth.

He also told The Guardian that he is bound by a nondisclosure agreement, under threat of criminal prosecution from the federal government, not to talk about the interrogation techniques that were employed by the CIA.

"I don't get annoyed about the program," Mitchell added. "I get annoyed the way the good parts, and the bad parts, have been glossed over and some good parts have been vilified. That frustrates me.

"I would be happy to tell my entire story. I am interested in having an active and honest debate, but only if the Justice Department and federal government release me from my agreement."

Earlier this month the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify and release a portion of the 6,600-page report, including the summary and the 20 conclusions.

Committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said the report exposed "the brutality that stands in sharp contrast to our values as a nation."

The documents have been sent to President Barack Obama for his approval of de-classification.

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