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The psychologist regarded as the architect of the CIA's “enhanced interrogation” program has broken a seven-year silence to defend the use of torture techniques against al-Qaida terror suspects in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
In an uncompromising and wide-ranging interview with the Guardian, his first public remarks since he was linked to the program in 2007, James Mitchell was dismissive of a Senate intelligence committee report on CIA torture in which he features, and which is currently at the heart of an intense row between legislators and the agency.
But Mitchell, who was reported to have personally waterboarded accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, remains unrepentant. “The people on the ground did the best they could with the way they understood the law at the time,” he said. “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.”
Mitchell said: “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.”
So here we have a licensed clinical psychologist who has personally administered water boarding. If anybody should be able to understand the devastating psychological impact of this process he should. He deliberately used that impact and assisted others in doing so. Now he wants to claim that he and his associates just didn't understand that it was illegal. Bullshit!
Torture is a clear violation of multiple protocols of international law which have been incorporated into US law. They knew that at the time and just assumed that they could get away with it. Given the approach of the next administration to dealing with the issue, that assumption seems to have been accurate so far. The American Psychological Asso. has consistently dodged the issue of sanctioning its members who participated in the torture programs.