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Thursday, February 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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In pretrial testimony, James Mitchell shares regret for role in CIA torture techniques

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 22, 2020

James Mitchell, the former Spokane psychologist who designed and participated in the CIA’s water boarding torture of terrorism suspects, is shown in an interview Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2019, on FOX News. (Spokesman-Review screen grab)
James Mitchell, the former Spokane psychologist who designed and participated in the CIA’s water boarding torture of terrorism suspects, is shown in an interview Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2019, on FOX News. (Spokesman-Review screen grab)
From staff and wire reports

One of the architects of the CIA’s torture program testified Wednesday that he eventually came to believe that his torture techniques had gone too far, NPR reported.

Testifying publicly under oath as part of a pretrial hearing for the criminal case against five accused Sept. 11 terrorists, former Spokane-based psychologist and interrogator James Mitchell spoke about one prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded more than 80 times at a CIA site overseas, according to NPR.

According to Mitchell’s testimony, he thought they’d gotten all the information they could from Zubaydah. NPR reported that Mitchell said he wanted the waterboarding to stop and helped draft a message to CIA headquarters saying “the intensity of the pressure applied to him thus far approaches the legal limit” and that Zubaydah’s mental state was deteriorating.

Mitchell said the CIA told them to keep going.

NPR quoted Mitchell as saying, “They were absolutely convinced he had something cooking.”

Mitchell said he agreed to waterboard Zubaydah just one more time, but he wanted a senior CIA official to come see what it looked like. A senior CIA official attended that waterboarding, during which Zubaydah was having involuntary body spasms and was crying. Mitchell said he and others in the room became tearful.

“I thought it was unnecessary, and I felt sorry for him,” Mitchell testified.

Mitchell, who waterboarded alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, began testifying Tuesday and is expected to continue through the week.

The CIA paid a company owned by Mitchell and his partner, Bruce Jessen, another Spokane-based psychologist, more than $80 million to develop the torture program ultimately used by the CIA on suspected terrorists.

Mitchell no longer lives in the Spokane area, but Jessen is believed to still reside in the area. They got their start at Fairchild Air Force base as survival trainers.

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