CIA officials reportedly called architects of the agency’s intense waterboarding interrogation program “pussies” for not wanting to continue with the project.
John Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, two military psychologists who helped developed the interrogation program and now defendants in a lawsuit, discussed their reticence about the whole operation in a recent deposition 15 years after the fact, The New York Times reports.
Waterboarding was one of the principal techniques developed as part of the program, but once interrogators realized the simulated drowning wasn’t delivering the desired results, Jessen and Mitchell relayed concerns to the CIA.
Officials at the agency then apparently mocked and shamed them for even considering halting the project.
Mitchell said that CIA officials stated: “You guys have lost your spine.”
“I think the word that was actually used is that you guys are pussies,” Mitchell said.
“They kept telling me every day a nuclear bomb was going to be exploded in the United States and that because I had told them to stop, I had lost my nerve and it was going to be my fault if I didn’t continue,” Jessen added.
And yet, Jessen and Mitchell continued with the work, though they do not consider themselves to be architects of the program and were resistant at times.
“I think any normal, conscionable man would have to consider carefully doing something like this,” Jessen said in a deposition. “I deliberated with great, soulful torment about this, and obviously I concluded that it could be done safely or I wouldn’t have done it.”
Jessen and Mitchell’s Spokane-based company in Washington received $81 million to develop, apply and train interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice approved the techniques in 2002 and 2005, but years later, the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2014 condemned the practices as “brutal” and claimed they constituted torture.
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits the use of torture on prisoners of war.
Neither Jessen, nor Mitchell believes the techniques resulted in any long-term physical or psychological damage, a point disputed by the detainees, who complain of depression and flashbacks, among other ailments.
The case, brought forward by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of former interrogated detainees, will come to trial on September 5.
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