One of the men who helped build and implement the CIA's torture program said he would 'get up today and do it again'
James Mitchell, one of the architects of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques," appeared at a hearing of several Guantánamo prisoners on Tuesday. Mitchell testified about the torture program he developed, which included waterboarding, rectal feeding, and hanging inmates from the ceiling. The psychologist told the court he believed his "moral duty to protect American lives outweighed the feelings of discomfort of terrorist" and that he would "get up today and do it again." Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
James Mitchell, one of the minds behind the Central Intelligence Agency's "enhanced interrogation techniques," or torture program, testified on Tuesday that he would "do it again". "Let me tell you just so you know," he said from the witness stand during a hearing at a US military court in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, "I'd get up today and do it again." Mitchell and his colleague John "Bruce" Jessen, both psychologists, were first contacted by the CIA in 2002. At the time, Jessen was working for the Pentagon, where he taught special commandos how to resist and endure torture. The pair were paid $81 million over several years to build and implement a torture program. During the Tuesday hearing, which was held in connection with a trial for five al-Qaeda members accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks, the psychologists sat just feet away from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a man Mitchell and Jessen personally waterboarded 183 times in 2003. Mitchell's was the first testimony of the trial to describe the torture program.
Mitchell testified at the request of the defense, who sought to show that the interrogations their clients withstood after 2007, when the torture program was officially dismantled, were fundamentally similar to the ones they withstood when the program was still operational. Following revelations about the Jessen and Mitchell-authored torture program, confessions obtained during the program were deemed inadmissible. At least 119 detainees were held at secret CIA prisons between 2002 and 2008, according to a landmark 2014 Senate investigation. On the advice of Mitchell and Jessen, black-site operators hanged detainees from the ceiling by their handcuffs for 22 hours at a time, fed them puréed food with a tube inserted through the rectum, and waterboarded them, among other techniques. Methods like sleep deprivation caused permanent physical injury, the investigation found. Despite acknowledging that several detainees tortured at Guantánamo were never charged with a crime, Mitchell defended his program from the stand.
"I thought my moral duty to protect American lives outweighed the feelings of discomfort of terrorists who voluntarily took up arms against us," he said. "To me it just seemed like it would be dereliction of my moral responsibilities." In 2015, Mitchell and Jessen were sued by the ACLU on behalf of three torture victims — one of whom died in custody. The suit was settled out of court in 2017. Following the announcement of the settlement, Mitchell was reached by phone by the New York Times. He said he found it "regrettable that one guy died and those other guys were treated badly," but claimed, "We had nothing to do with it. We're not responsible for it. They say we are, but in my view they're wrong."
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