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Psychologists Were Paid $81M to Devise CIA Tortures

Air Force retirees had never carried out real interrogation
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2014 5:15 AM CST
Updated Dec 10, 2014 6:47 AM CST
Psychologists Were Paid $81M to Devise CIA Tortures
An anti-war protester holds up a hand covered in red paint at a protest inside of the University of California Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A pair of retired Air Force psychologists who had never interrogated anybody before were paid a fortune to devise the CIA's "enhanced interrogation" program, according to yesterday's Senate Intelligence Committee report. The psychologists—identified in earlier reports as Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen—helped develop interrogation techniques for the CIA starting in 2002 and conducted many waterboardings themselves. They set up their own firm in 2005, and the Senate report says the CIA outsourced "virtually all aspects" of the program to it, paying the contractors $81 million before their $180 million contract was terminated in 2009, the Telegraph reports. The Senate report says neither man had specialized knowledge of al-Qaeda, "a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise."

Mitchell and Jessen—who accused agents who failed to use waterboarding and other "enhanced" techniques of running a "sissified" interrogation program—had experience not in real interrogations, but in running a Cold War-era training program on what captured airmen could expect from Communist interrogators, reports the New York Times. To devise their techniques, they drew on the "learned helplessness" theory concept developed by psychologist Martin Seligman. Seligman, considered a top expert on human happiness, tells New York that he is "grieved and horrified that good science, which has helped so many people overcome depression, may have been used for such bad purposes." When contacted by ABC, Mitchell described the Senate report as "a steaming pile of horse crap." (More CIA stories.)

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