Psychologist defends harsh CIA interrogations

2014-12-11 10:24
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Washington - One of the two psychologists who earned millions for designing the CIA's post September 11 2001 programme of brutal interrogations defends the treatment of al-Qaeda detainees and disputes a critical US Senate report.

"What I would love the American people to know is that the way the Senate Democrats on that committee described the credentials and background of the two psychologists is just factually, demonstrably incorrect," James E Mitchell told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Wednesday from his Florida home.

Mitchell, who is identified in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report by a pseudonym, Grayson Swigert, declined to be specific about what he considered inaccurate.

He said a secrecy agreement prevented him from confirming his involvement in the CIA programme or fully defending himself.

A US official with knowledge of the programme confirms that Mitchell is Swigert. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss information that has not been publicly released.

Mitchell's former business partner, Bruce Jessen, is identified in the report as Hammond Dunbar, the official said.

The report said they "devised the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques and played a central role in the operation, assessments, and management" of the programme.

The two were said to be involved in some of the most brutal interrogations, including waterboarding applied to September 11 attacks mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed that went beyond what the justice department had approved.

The CIA contracted out much of the interrogation programme to the two men, the report said, and ultimately paid their company $81m.

'Learned helplessness'

In the AP interview, Mitchell said the committee's report cherry-picked evidence to present a false narrative about the CIA programme.

"It's flat wrong," he said, to suggest that he had no experience as an interrogator and no understanding of al-Qaeda, as the report says of the psychologists.

But Mitchell declined to detail his experience, other than to point out he spent 30 years with the Air Force and other government organisations.

"I completely understand why the human rights organisations in the United States are upset by the Senate report," he said. "I would be upset by it too, if it were true."

"What they are asking you to believe is that multiple directors of the CIA and analysts who made their living for years doing this lied to the federal government, or were too stupid to know that the intelligence they were getting wasn't useful."

Mitchell asserted, as have former CIA officials who ran the interrogation programme, that the current policy of using CIA drones to kill terrorists overseas with Hellfire missiles is more troubling than subjecting them to harsh interrogation measures.

"It's a lot more humane, even if you are going to subject them to harsh techniques, to question them while they are still alive, than it is to kill them and their children and their neighbors with a drone," he said.

The report said Mitchell "had reviewed research on 'learned helplessness,' in which individuals might become passive and depressed in response to adverse or uncontrollable events. He theorized that inducing such a state could encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information."

Read more on:    cia  |  al-qaeda  |  us  |  human rights

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