CIA rehired, then fired, contractors involved in torture

John Byrne
The Raw Story
June 15, 2009

Weeks after President Barack Obama took office, the Central Intelligence Agency renewed a contract with a firm that helped orchestrate the torture of American-held detainees during the Bush Administration, The New Yorker revealed Sunday.

Two months later, according to the magazine, the agency fired them.

The contractors’ firings came in April, around the time the Senate Armed Services Committee fingered the role of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen in developing “countermeasures to defeat” detainees’ resistance in interrogations. It raises questions of whether the terminations only came after the contractors’ role was exposed.

“Mitchell and Jessen, who run the firm, had worked on a Pentagon program that taught U.S. service members how to survive harsh enemy interrogation methods,” veteran Washington Postintelligence reporter Walter Pincus wrote Monday. “They relied on elements of that training in proposing an interrogation program for the CIA. It included methods such as sleep deprivation and other actions based on “theories of ‘learned helplessness,’” according to the New Yorker.

The New Yorker’s Jane Meyer wrote: “In April, [Obama CIA Director Leon] Panetta (above right) fired all the C.I.A.’s contract interrogators, including the former military psychologists who appear to have designed the most brutal interrogation techniques: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The two men, who ran a consulting company, Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, had recommended that interrogators apply to detainees theories of “learned helplessness” that were based on experiments with abused dogs. The firm’s principals reportedly billed the agency a thousand dollars a day for their services. “We saved some money in the deal, too!” Panetta said. (Remarkably, a month after Obama took office the C.I.A. had signed a fresh contract with the firm.)”

Panetta told Mayer he “didn’t support these methods that were used, or the legal justification for why they did it.”

Remarkably, Panetta also claims in the article that he “at one time” supported a truth commission to investigate Bush administration abuses — but that he reversed his position after President Obama indicated he wouldn’t support such a move.

He “didn’t want to spend a lot of time dealing with the past and what mistakes were made,” Mayer writes.

“Most of the individuals who managed the secret interrogation program have since left the agency,” she adds, “though CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes, whom Panetta told senators in February would be his “full partner,” held at least a nominal role in oversight of the program.”

Read Mayer’s full New Yorker story here

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Posted on June 18, 2009, in War On Terror and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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