The Psychologist Who Taught Torture

By Allen McDuffee | December 9, 2014

Out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, dubbed the “torture report,” it was disclosed that the CIA contractors who helped develop and operate the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” were paid more than $80 million for the multi-year job. Had it not been canceled in 2009, the contract would have been worth more than $180 million.

The company wasn’t run by a group of rogue mercenaries, but rather trained, career-long psychologists under the banner of Mitchell, Jessen & Associates in Spokane, WA. In an exclusive interview earlier this year, Jason Leopold, writing for The Guardian, spoke with James Mitchell, the psychologist who designed the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program—the first time Mitchell had spoken the press in almost a decade.

All at once, Mitchell appears in the interview as somebody who is not apologetic to the concerns of the broader public, who seems to be in the midst of reputation repair and, yet, someone who is happy to say exactly what he did and did not do under the program he designed (although he is legally bound to not talk about the specifics of the program).

“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,” said Mitchell in the interview. But the “just a guy” line might be a bit difficult for readers of the Senate report to justify with the accounts contained in the document.

Caught somewhere between defiance and something that resembles shame, Mitchell also said: “I don’t care what [Dianne] Feinstein thinks about me. I’m retired. I do a lot of adventurous stuff now. I served my country and now I’m done. I did what I did for whoever I did it for, and now I’m done with that stuff.”

Now reporting for Vice News, Leopold has returned to his source in producing a documentary that is soon to come.