It’s Still All About the Money: Learned Helplessness and Greed (Part 2)

Psychological Warfare

Psychology has had a place in the military for decades, so it is not particularly surprising that a psychological theory developed to help us understand and treat depression was used in a military context. One area in which contributions of psychologists is well known is in preparing personnel for the abuse they might receive if captured by the enemy. During the Korean War, Chinese and North Korean military subjected American prisoners to brutal torture and intense propaganda indoctrination. The treatment decimated morale and mutual support among the POWs as a group, in addition to causing considerable physical and psychological injuries. The end of the Korean War brought the release of prisoners of war (POW), but the torture and indoctrination were so successful that 21 American soldiers refused repatriation and remained in North Korea.  The torture achieved the desired results of indoctrination in the Communist ideology so much so that the American prisoners gave statements on Radio Beijing alleging that the United States had engaged in germ warfare.

And at the end of this very sad saga, President Eisenhower ordered that all American military personnel at high risk of capture (aviators and special operations personnel) should be conditioned to resist torture. In response to this order, the US Air Force developed the first SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) program. Captured US military personnel have a duty, the military preached in SERE, to “return with honor,” and the SERE program was designed to help them do that.  By the start of the Vietnam War, aviators and special forces personnel had been trained to evade capture, resist enemy coercion, and keep faith with their fellow prisoners.  Mock detention and interrogation have proven to be a useful experience for US personnel including the well-known case of Sen. John McCain.

Harsh interrogation techniques have been used for centuries, but the use of torture has been vehemently opposed by writer/philosophers such as Montaigne, Voltaire, and Sartre.  Cesare Beccaria’s On Crimes and Punishments [13] denounced torture as cruel and contrary to reason.  Torture was used in Medieval Europe to obtain correlative evidence about a crime, but inducing a confession of a crime by torture was not permitted.  Religious ideology has sanctioned torture for centuries, and continues to do so today.  Protestants during the Renaissance used torture against heretics.  The torture of Jacques Gruet at the behest of John Calvin is one of the best known examples.  Marc Smeaton confessed to an adulterous affair with Anne Boleyn after being tortured, and Guy Fawkes was tortured to reveal his co-conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

The French Revolution abolished torture in France and most of Europe.  In modern times, the torture of prisoners captured in armed conflict has been deemed unacceptable according to Article 5, of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols of 1977, as well as the United Nations Convention against Torture.  Nonetheless, torture against both men and women is still used throughout the world.  The Human Rights Watch has reported torture in Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Morocco, Western Sudan, Uzbekistan, North Korea, and Sudan in recent years.

Figure 6:  Insignias for the SERE schools in each branch of the military.  The Navy and Marine insignias incorporate a survival knife cutting through barbed wire.

Figure 6: Insignias for the SERE schools in each branch of the military. The Navy and Marine insignias incorporate a survival knife cutting through barbed wire.

Today, all branches of the US military have their own SERE training facilities.  The Air Force SERE facility is located at Fairchild Air Force Base, near Spokane, WA, and is the site for what would become a disaster for the US.  The SERE program, developed by the DoD Joint Personnel Recover Agency (JPRA), was designed to teach US military personnel how to withstand brutal interrogation techniques if captured during wartime.  The course provides students with an accurate picture of possible detention experience, instills the sense that survival is possible and one can return with home honor, and is meant to ensure that students “do not develop a sense ‘learned helplessness.’”[14]  It is important to understand that the SERE program has a long and distinguished history in helping military personnel endure harsh captivity, and has been recognized effective in helping POWs withstand the privations of detention and harsh interrogation.

The Air Force’s SERE program is where the two architects of the well-known CIA “enhanced interrogation” techniques met.  The story of these two psychologists and the prostitution of Seligman’s research is important because these events illustrate how factors that have nothing to do with science can corrupt and misuse legitimate scientific research.  The story also highlights the costs of tactical and policy decisions made in denial of scientific evidence.  By taking a course designed as defensive training for POWs and redesigning it to elicit intelligence from “War on Terror” captives, the DoD and the CIA are responsible for actions that can only be classified as torture.

The events that led up to the approval of “enhanced interrogation techniques” is a story of opportunism, avarice, greed, and misguided patriotism.  It is also a story of bureaucratic doubletalk, thousands of pages of legalese, an administration hell bent on revenge, and two clinical psychologists with driving ambitions.  A brief professional history of James Elmer Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen illustrate how chance, ignorance, laziness and greed conspired to put these two in charge of a program for which they had marginally relevant training, no experience in implementation, no overall strategic plan, no clear objective, no accountability, and a virtually unlimited credit card.

James Elmer Mitchell

James Mitchell (born circa 1952) grew up in Florida and joined the Air Force in 1974 to seek adventure.[15]  In his first Air Force experience, Mitchell was stationed in Alaska and was trained as a bomb neutralization technician.  While in Alaska he earned a MS in counseling from the University of Alaska in 1981.  He wrote his thesis on The Effects of Induced Elation and Depression on Interpersonal Problem Solving Efficiency.  In 1986, he received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of South Florida, where he wrote a dissertation on The Effectiveness of a High Potassium/Moderate Sodium Restriction Diet and Aerobic Exercise as Interventions for Borderline Hypertension. [16]

Upon completion of his graduate work, Mitchell rejoined the Air Force as a psychologist and was stationed at the Air Force survival school, Fairchild AFB.  In 1988 he became the Chief of Psychology Service succeeding John Bruce Jessen, his future business partner.  At that time he supervised the basic SERE course, Basic Combat Survival School for Resistance to Interrogation referred to as SV-80.  At SERE Mitchell was known for enforcing the safety of interrogations; and paradoxically he eliminated a tactic called “manhandling” after it produced a spate of neck injuries.  By 1996 Mitchell had moved on to the Air Force Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, NC, where he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2001.[1] Mitchell had the entrepreneurial spirit and upon retirement he created several new companies: the Wizard Shop, later renamed Mind Science; What If?; and Knowledge Works, which was certified by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2004 as a sponsor of continuing professional education. (APA dropped the certification in 2013).  After retirement he quickly transitioned into a private contractor at a considerable increase in salary.

John Bruce Jessen

Bruce Jessen (born 28 July, 1949) was born into a Mormon family of potato farmers in Idaho.  He received his MS degree in counseling psychology from Utah State University in 1976, as well as his PhD in clinical psychology in 1979.  He wrote his dissertation on The Effect of Family Sculpting on Perceptual Agreement Among Family Members. [17]  “Family sculpting,” is a counseling technique in which patients make physical models of their family to portray emotional relationships.  This is not the type of academic training that would qualify one as a torture expert.

Jensen enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed at Fairchild AFB where he served as the Chief of the Psychology Service in the Air Force SERE school.  In 1988, Jessen was replaced by Mitchell, but Jessen moved on to bigger and better things.  Jessen was tasked to develop a new course for special mission units (SMU) “…to develop individual resistance to terrorist exploitation”, the Special Survival for Special Mission Units or the SV-91 course. [18]  The new course was based on a course used during the Cold War, SV-83, Special Survival for Sensitive Reconnaissance Operations by the Air Force. Graduates of SERE flew secret missions over the Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and other communist countries during the Cold War, and there was considerable concern about their possible capture and interrogation. [19]

The new and improved SV-91 course developed by Jessen would be the basis for much of what was to follow. At the SERE graduate school, Jessen went from supervising psychologist to mock enemy interrogator. In fact, Jessen became so immersed in the role of a mock interrogator he had to be shown videotape of his “pretty scary” performance in order to calm him down. [18]

In 2012, Mr. Jessen was selected to be a bishop in the Mormon Church in Spokane, but he was forced to step down “due to concerns expressed about his past work related to interrogation techniques.” [20]  Even the conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints seems to draw a line at torture.


Exploiting 9/11

The events of 9/11 provided Mitchell with a golden opportunity to sell his independent consulting services to the CIA. Mitchell has been characterized as an entrepreneur and somewhat derisively as a “used car salesman.”  As a retired Air Force officer with claimed experience in enemy torture methods, Mitchell was perfectly positioned to help bring justice to the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

Initially, the CIA hired Mitchell to review a document known as the “Manchester Manual.” (MM) [14]  MM was ostensibly derived from the SERE training manual, confiscated from an al-Qaeda member’s home in Manchester England.  Mitchell contacted his former colleague, Bruce Jessen, for assistance.  Seizing the opportunity, Mitchell and Jessen wrote a paper titled “Recognizing and Developing Countermeasures to Al-Qa’ida Resistance to Interrogation Techniques: A Resistance Training Perspective” and provided it to the CIA.

Lacking any direct expertise or familiarity with al-Qaeda, lacking qualifications as an interrogator, largely ignorant of the religious tenets of Islam, and possessing no language fluency, Mitchell with Jessen marketed themselves to the CIA as experts in conducting counter-terrorism interrogations of alleged Islamic fundamentalists.  Mitchell impressed decision makers at the CIA with his “experience” and his toughness.[21]   On their own initiative, Mitchell and Jessen “developed a list of new and more aggressive EITs [enhanced interrogation techniques] for use in interrogations.”  They “reverse-engineered” the SERE training protocol and argued that techniques previously applied only in mock, controlled settings now be used in real-world interrogations.  Mitchell theorized that inducing a state of “learned helplessness” in detainees could encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information.[22]  Mitchell suggested that interrogations required “a comparable level of fear and brutality to flying planes into buildings.”

Given the short time it took for the CIA to hire the two, some have characterized the CIA as desperate for any help it could find and Mitchell and Jessen were on the spot with a solution.  The CIA hired Mitchell and Jessen because their experience with “nonstandard” interrogation was unparalleled.  Mitchell’s combination of visceral toughness and psychological jargon made him a persuasive salesman for EIT.  However, FBI interrogation experts had serious reservations about the effectiveness of Mitchell and Jessen’s plan and favored the traditional approach to questioning prisoners. Nonetheless, the CIA had the money and the FBI was largely ignored.

On February 5, 2002, President George W. Bush signed a declaration that the Third Geneva Convention did not apply to the conflict with al-Qaida or the Taliban, and those prisoners were not entitled to prisoner-of-war status or legal guarantees of humane treatment under the convention. This presidential decree set the stage for an extraordinary violation of human rights that is only now being exposed.

Mitchell and Jessen drafted the nuts and bolts of the new interrogation procedures based on the PREAL manual for the SERE school, and later formalized in the JTF GTMO “SERE” Interrogation Standard Operating Procedures.  The manual describes“…procedures to be followed by JTF-GTMO personnel engaged in interrogations operations on detained persons.”  When details of the procedures proposed were released it was as if Mitchell and Jessen had invented the light bulb.  These techniques were widely known and employed in a variety of military/political conflicts.

Leave it to the CIA, to take things to a new level.  In spite of all the heat and light about EITs, and contrary to the CIA hyperbole about the innovative interrogation protocols, the proposal from Mitchell and Jessen was a restatement of a simple set of techniques that “could be easily master by any police sergeant with a secondary education” and a taste for torture.[23]  Far from being something new and revolutionary, Mitchell and Jessen used existing knowledge to produce a plan with which some inside the CIA were uncomfortable. [24]

The basic premise is that the interrogation tactics used the U.S. military SERE schools are appropriate for use in real world interrogations.  The tactics and techniques used SERE school to “break” SERE detainees are the same tactics and techniques can be used to break real detainees during interrogation operations according to Jessen and Mitchell. The “end goal,” according to Jessen’s handwritten notes, was to make the prisoner feel “completely dependent” on captors so they would “comply with [their] wishes.” The purpose of such dependence was to coerce the prisoner’s cooperation, for “propaganda, special favors, confessions, etc.”[25]

These techniques were outlined in excruciatingly fine detail by Jessen and Mitchell using and later incorporated into the training manual for all interrogators.  The techniques included:

Walling & Stripping

Figure 7: Walling and Stripping.

Figure 7: Walling and Stripping.












Figure 8: Slapping.











Stress Positions (Standing & Kneeling)

Figure 9: Stress Positions (Standing & Kneeling)

Figure 9: Stress Positions (Standing & Kneeling)













Stress positions 2 (Sitting & Praying)

Figure 9: Stress Positions (Sitting & Position)

Figure 9: Stress Positions (Sitting & Position)















Manhandling & Head Rest/Fingerpoint

Figure 10: Manhandling & Head Resting / Fingerpointing

Figure 10: Manhandling & Head Resting / Fingerpointing















Figure 11: Waterboarding

Figure 11: Waterboarding















Of all the EITs used, waterboarding has received the most notoriety.  Waterboarding has a long history as a torture technique and has been used world-wide, but its application by Mitchell and Jessen is worthy of some discussion.  The ultimate approval and justification for waterboarding as an EIT was a Justice Department legal opinion written by John Yoo, the Bush’s designated go-to-guy in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) for 9/11 legal issues, in the form of a memo from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, to John Rizzo the senior deputy general counsel of the CIA at the time.  The memo was a restatement of information in earlier memos by Rizzo.  Rizzo told Bybee that at least two former SERE trainers assured him (Rizzo) that SERE training had never inflicted severe physical or psychology damage on trainees. [26]  Yoo/Bybee continued to echo Rizzo’s words back to him, of assurances by Mitchell and Jessen of the safety of the SERE techniques in not inducing psychological trauma.  These assurances of the safety of SERE tactics were central to the Justice Department’s legal opinion that waterboarding was not torture since it had been performed on SERE students with not long-term effects.  Since there were supposedly no long term effects it could not be considered torture according to the DoJ. [26]  The keys here are twofold: first, since the procedures had been conducted on US military personnel they could not be considered torture; and second, that there was no evidence existed documenting long term effects.  Of course, there was evidence to the contrary, but it was systematically ignored by Mitchell and Jessen and subsequently the entire CIA, DoD, DoJ, and the Bush administration.

Of all the SERE schools, only the Navy SERE school uses waterboarding as part of the curriculum and it is reserved for special students who are not cooperative with interrogators.  These special students are typically Navy SEALs or other Special Operators trying to “out macho” each other in their ability to withstand privation.  The SERE school does not teach non-cooperation, but survival and how to deal with guilt of possibly giving up sensitive information.

As self-reported authorities on interrogation, Mitchell and Jessen knew precisely how to orchestrate the approval and acceptance of EITs.  The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JRPA) is an office of the DoD and has responsibility for personnel recovery worldwide.  It is the coordinating center for all recovery efforts for military personnel, a fact well-known to Mitchell and Jessen.  Given their SERE school experience, Mitchell and Jessen were successful in persuading official at the JPRA to visit the Navy SERE school at Coronado, CA to examine their program manuals for guidance in developing EITs.  Visiting the Coronado SERE program at was no accident as the Navy SERE program was well known within the military as the harshest of the SERE programs.  The JPRA representatives were so focused on documenting every detail of the Navy protocol, even measuring the waterboard (5’ x 7’) used at the Navy SERE school.  The Navy modeled its waterboards from those used against American POWs by the North Vietnamese as a final touch of authenticity.  Mitchell and Jensen convinced the CIA to adopt the Navy protocol that included waterboarding as the best way to extract useful intelligence.

Members of the Bush administration became strong proponents of waterboarding as a useful interrogation tool, in spite of volumes of evidence to the contrary.  Unlike the SERE waterboarding of macho Navy SEALs, where only a small amount of water is used only once, or in very rare instances twice, on only the most truculent students, CIA interrogators poured volumes of water on detainees.  Interrogators maximized the amount of water inhaled during waterboarding by pouring water onto detainees immediately after they exhaled.  Interrogators used their hands to dam the runoff and prevent water spilling out of the detainees’ mouths.  Interrogators were allowed six 40-second “applications” of liquid in each two-hour session.  As a precaution against aspiration of their own vomit, a frequent side effect of waterboarding, detainees were kept on a liquid diet and were subjected to rectal hydration (aka rectal fluid resuscitation) and rectal feeding (aka nutrient enema or rectal alimentation) without documented medical necessity.

Because of the large quantity of water being used, medical personnel advised the use of saline instead of water, to prevent possible hyponatremia (water intoxication) due to dangerously low concentration of sodium concentration in the blood that can result in coma and even death.  Saline was used in waterboarding in order to mitigate the possibility of pneumonia as a consequence of aspiration.  To ensure that detainees did not go into respiratory distress during waterboarding, detainee’s oxygen saturation levels were monitored using a pulse oximeter, a device measuring blood oxygen content in real time.  This was especially useful in allowing interrogators to push detainees to the edge, medically-monitored torture.

Sensory deprivation

Figure 11: Sensory Deprivation

Figure 11: Sensory Deprivation










A long-standing personal favorite of CIA interrogators used in combination with other interrogation techniques.

Cramped confinement – Two boxes were constructed. One was coffin-sized and the other was much smaller. The PREAL manual clearly states that “…The maximum time allowed for a student to be in cramped confinement in 20 minutes.” But the Yoo/Bybee torture memo says, “Confinement in the larger space can last up to eighteen hours; for the smaller space confinement lasts no more than two hours.” The PREAL document notes that the purpose of cramped confinement, like the 55-gallon drum and the water pit, is used to “demonstrate the reaction to uncooperative behavior, inconsistent logic, or to accelerate the physical and psychological stresses of captivity.”

Sleep deprivation – Detainees were kept awake by water dousing at 30 minute intervals for as long as 180 hours (7 days 12 hours) often while detainees stood with their hands shackled over their heads

Use of diapers – during standing sleep deprivation diapers were used for sanitation and hygiene purposes, but the real purpose was to cause humiliation and a sense of helplessness.

Loud music and noise – Guidelines allowed continuous loud music [27] or noise, but noted that music should be more than 82dB for 24 hours, 84dB for no more than 18 hours, 90dB for 8 hours, 95dB for 4 hours, or 100 dB for 2 hours, which according to NIOSH and CDC Guidelines are all likely to result in hearing loss.[ii]

Use of insects – detainees were told that there were stinging insects in the confinement boxes, but only caterpillars were used.

Mock execution and burial – An unloaded handgun was used to frighten detainees into disclosing information. CIA officers staged a mock murder outside a detainee’s cell as intimidation.

Other practices – A power drill was used to intimidate a shackled, naked, and hooded detainee. Interrogators smoked cigars and blew smoke into the face of detainees (according to the interrogators it was to “cover the stench.”) Detainees were “bathed” using stiff bristle brushes. Detainees were subjected to repeated sessions of “water dousing,” a method described as spraying a detainee who was naked and shackled by chains attached to a ceiling with extremely cold water. [28, 29]

Abu Zubaydah’s Interrogation

On March 28, 2002, American forces shot and captured Abu Zubaydah (AZ), believed to be a high-ranking member of al-Qaida in Pakistan, The pressure to prevent another attack was intense and the CIA was desperate.  The relocation of AZ to “black sites” outside the US was Jessen and Mitchell’s chance.  AZ was sent to a CIA black site in Thailand for detention and interrogation

The CIA dispatched Mitchell to Thailand, where he was to consult on the “psychological aspects” of the interrogation of AZ. Mitchell’s original contract with the agency had been to observe AZ’s interrogation and assess whether he was using the al-Qaeda techniques for thwarting interrogation procedures as outlined in the Manchester Manual. However, it did not take long for Mitchell and Jessen to transition to a more hands on approach to interrogation.[20]

At Mitchell and Jessen’s behest, AZ was kept naked for between one and a half to two months and his clothes were provided or removed based on his level of cooperation as judged by his interrogators.  AZ was systematically deprived of sleep for a period of two to three weeks by the combined use of painful shackling, loud music[iii], cold temperatures[iv], and water dousing.  Very loud “shouting” music was constantly playing on an approximately 15 repeat loop 24 hours a day. Sometimes the music stopped and was replaced by a loud hissing or crackling noise.[27, 30]  Continuous playing of an infant crying, as well as the repetitive clicking sounds at the end of an LP record were also used.  AZ was denied solid foods, and fed only high-calorie liquids which provided him with minimal sustenance and left him constantly hungry.[v] According to one of the FBI agents who observed the Mitchell’s and Jessen’s interrogation of AZ, Mitchell “insisted on stepping up the notches of his experiment,” and devised the idea of placing AZ in confinement boxes.

One box was so small (21”w x 30”d x 30”h) that instead of standing he “had to double up his limbs in a fetal position.”  AZ was confined for as long 29 hours in this box.  The other “coffin-like” box was so narrow that AZ could not sit.  At one point he was confined in the box for 266 hours (11 days, 2 hours).  The boxes were black, both inside and out, and covered with towels, possibly in an effort to constrict the flow of air inside.  While the CIA was inflicting escalating levels of abuse on AZ, he was still recovering from his gunshot wounds.  In fact, the interrogators were so worried that AZ might die that they videotaped his interrogations in an attempt to protect themselves from potential liability. The CIA later destroyed these videotapes.

AZ was slammed directly into hard concrete walls (only later covered by a plywood sheet), with a thick collar placed around his neck that was presumably intended to protect him from additional life-threatening injury.  He was also forced to stand with his wrists shackled to a bar or hook in the ceiling above his head, and his feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor, for more than 40 hours and for up to two or three months intermittently, during which period toilet access was sometimes denied resulting in allegations from four detainees that they had to defecate and urinate over themselves.  This is widely regarded as one of the most painful physical torture techniques.[31]

Mitchell and Jessen discovered that AZ had an especially pronounced fear of insects and the psychologists devised a scheme to use his phobia against him.  They told AZ that a stinging insect would be placed in the box with him.  Again, this is not a novel technique as Mitchell and Jessen would lead you to believe, but one reminiscent of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which the Ministry of Love terrorized the protagonist, Winston Smith, by exploiting his intense fear of rats. [32]

Finally, AZ was waterboarded 83 times in August 2002 alone, usually twice per session and sometimes three times in a single session and over 180 times in total.  The Red Cross report contains AZ’s own description of his waterboarding.

I was dragged from the small box, unable to walk properly and put on what looked like a hospital bed, and strapped down very tightly with belts. The table was lowered so that my head was lower than my feet. A black cloth was then placed over my face and water was poured on the cloth so that I could not breathe. After a few minutes the cloth was removed and the bed was rotated into an upright position. The pressure of the straps on my wounds was very painful. I vomited. The same torture carried out again with the black cloth over my face and water poured on from a bottle. I thought I was going to die.

I was then placed again in the tall box.  Loud music was played and somebody kept banging repeatedly on the box from the outside.  I tried to sit down on the floor, but because of the small space the bucket with urine tipped over and spilt over me.  I remained in the box for several hours, maybe overnight.  I was then taken out and again a towel was wrapped around my neck and I was smashed into the wall with the plywood covering and repeatedly slapped in the face by the same two interrogators as before.

This went on for approximately one week.  During that week I was not given any solid food.  My head and beard were shaved every day.  I collapsed and lost consciousness on several occasions.  Eventually the torture was stopped by a doctor.  I was told during this period that I was one of the first to receive these interrogation techniques, so no rules applied.  It felt like they were experimenting and trying out techniques to be used later on other people.

Not surprisingly, the effects of the interrogation program are deep and long-lasting. AZ reports, “Since then I still lose control of my urine when under stress.” [33]

The Red Cross has concluded that many of the techniques inflicted upon AZ – whether used alone or in combination – constitute torture.  Others constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.  The Red Cross also stated: “The alleged participation of health personnel in the interrogation process and, either directly or indirectly, in the infliction of ill-treatment constituted a gross breach of medical ethics and, in some cases, amounted to participation in torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

According to the Senate report the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program spent over $300 million in non-personnel costs to construct and maintain detention facilities.  This includes the cost of two facilities that were built but never used because of political concerns in the host countries [22] The superabundance of money and the lack of any sense of reason is graphically illustrated in the bonus paid to the manager of the Cobalt detention site of $2500. He was recognized by the CIA Station Chief in Afghanistan for his “consistently superior work” only four months after a detainee, Gul Rahman, died at the facility after being shackled to a cold cement wall.


Mitchell Jessen and Associates

In 2005, Mitchell Jessen and Associates was formed, with offices in Spokane and Reston, Virginia and included five additional shareholders, four of them from the military’s SERE program. David Ayers, Randall Spivey, James Sporleder, Roger Aldrich, , a legendary military survival trainer and Joseph Matarazzo, formed the core of the company. [34] Most troubling in this list is Matarazzo, a psychologist an emeritus professor at Oregon Health Sciences University and past President of the American Psychological Association. Although publically denying any day to day interaction with the company and disavowing the torture of terrorism suspects, Matarazzo’s participation is evidence of the close relationship of psychologists and the military. By 2007, the company employed about 60 people, some with impressive résumés, including Deuce Martinez, a lead CIA interrogator; Roger L. Aldrich; and Karen Gardner, a senior training official at the FBI. Academy.

The base contract with Mitchell Jessen and Associates awarded in 2006 was in excess of $180M, of which the contractors received $81M prior to the termination of the contract in 2009. In addition, the company and its employees received indemnification from legal liability arising from the program through 2021. The CIA has already paid out over $1M pursuant to the agreement.

The psychologists’ influence remained strong under four C.I.A. directors. In 2006, in fact, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her legal adviser, John B. Bellinger III, pushed back against the C.I.A.’s secret detention program and its methods, then CIA Director, Michael V. Hayden, asked Mitchell and Jessen to brief State Department officials and persuade them to drop their objections. They were unsuccessful. By then, the national debate over torture had begun, and the notoriety would undo the psychologists’ business.

In a statement to employees on April 9, 2009, Leon E. Panetta, President Barak Obama’s CIA director, announced the “decommissioning” of the agency’s secret jails and repeated a pledge not to use coercion. Additionally, Panetta stated that no CIA contractors will conduct interrogations. Agency officials terminated the contracts for Mitchell Jessen and Associates, and the psychologists’ lucrative seven-year ride was over. Within days, the company had vacated its Spokane offices and simply evaporated.

However, experience in the torture business was not a detriment to the career advancement of four of the company’s owners who now work at other firms that currently consult with the US government.  Three of them — Spivey, Sporleder, and Aldrich — are still working together at a company called the Center For Personal Protection & Safety, which counts both the DoD and the FBI among its clients.

In Part 3

Criticisms of Mitchell and Jessen have been well covered in the media, but equally disturbing was their rejection of abundant scientific data concluding that the techniques they touted were an abysmal failure in eliciting useful intelligence.  The dismissal of science in favor of political agendas has become a hallmark of government, not just the CIA.  Political advantage is the name of the game.  Complicit in the enterprise is American Psychological Association for giving  cover to the Bush administration by tacitly condoning its member’s participation in interrogations.  Seligman’s experiments were coopted and used in immoral, unethical, and inhumane ways.  The real tragedy in all of this is the apathy of most American about the use of EITs and the lack of meaningful changes in policy.



Follow me

EO Smith

Interests include biological anthropology, evolution, social behavior, and human behavior. Conducted field research in the Tana River National Primate Reserve, Kenya and on Angaur, Palau, Micronesia, as well as research with captive nonhuman primates at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the Institute for Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya.
EO Smith
Follow me

Latest posts by EO Smith (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *