Guantánamo: psychologists who designed CIA torture program to testify


Protestors mark 18th anniversary of Guantánamo Bay detention camp and call for its closure and ‘accountability for torture’ near the White House, on 11 January. Photograph: Mike Theiler/Reuters

Source: The Guardian

By Julian Borger in Guantánamo Bay

  • Techniques included waterboarding and other forms of torture
  • Hopes that trial will cast more light on scale of program

The two psychologists who designed the US “enhanced interrogation” programme that included waterboarding and other forms of torture, are due to give evidence in open court for the first time this week.

James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen will answer questions at a pre-trial hearing on the 9/11 attacks before a military tribunal in Guantánamo Bay.

Lawyers for the defendants, who are among 40 detainees being held at prison camp on the island of Cuba say it will be a unique opportunity to hold to account those responsible for approving and carrying out the use of torture, and to demonstrate that both the CIA and FBI were complicit in torture, with significant implications for any future trial of suspected 9/11 plotters.

Mitchell and Jessen, were former air force psychologists who were tasked by the CIA in 2002 to establish a programme of severe interrogation techniques. They were paid $1,800 a day and in 2005 they set up a private company, which provided most of the interrogators and most of the security staff at the ‘black sites’, secret detention facilities. The company was paid $81m for its services before its contract was terminated in 2009.

“The perverse ‘work’ of these psychologists has dramatically set back the global fight against torture. The interrogation methods they championed have had a rippling effect around the world,” said Julia Hall, a human rights lawyer with Amnesty International who is attending the hearings.

The American Pyschology Association has disowned Mitchell and Jessen for “violating the ethics of their profession and leaving a stain on the discipline of psychology”.


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