June 16, 2009 in City

CIA fires Spokane psychologists’ firm

Pair helped develop interrogation techniques
Washington Post
 

WASHINGTON – The CIA has fired a firm run by two Spokane psychologists who helped introduce waterboarding and other harsh methods to the agency’s interrogation techniques, according to a news report.

CIA Director Leon Panetta in April fired Mitchell, Jessen & Associates and all other contractors that aided the CIA in its interrogations of alleged terrorists, the New Yorker reported this weekend.

The firings took place around the same time the Senate Armed Services Committee reported on the role played by James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen in developing “countermeasures to defeat” the resistance of captured enemy detainees from whom intelligence was being sought.

The firm has closed its Spokane offices in the American Legion building, according to the New Yorker. The firm’s state-issued business license lists a post office box in Alexandria, Va.

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.

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,’ ” the New Yorker reported.

Contacted at his South Hill home Monday, Jessen declined to speak about the firing.

“Get off my property,” he told a reporter from The Spokesman-Review. “I’m not interested in talking to you.”

The CIA had extended its contract with the firm weeks after President Barack Obama took office.

Panetta told the magazine he “didn’t support these methods that were used, or the legal justification for why they did it.” He also said he supported at one time the creation of a “truth commission” to look into the subject.

But after Obama said in late April that he did not want to look as if he was going after either former President George W. Bush or former Vice President Dick Cheney, Panetta said, “everyone kind of backed away from it.”

Panetta said that once he was assured there was no criminal liability associated with current CIA employees, he “didn’t want to spend a lot of time dealing with the past and what mistakes were made.”

Staff writer Thomas Clouse contributed to this report.


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