When it comes to obtaining crucial information of the masterminds of terrorist attacks, what should officials do in the U.S. Army Field Manuals methods do not work and American lives are at stake?
That is the question James E. Mitchell, the psychologist and the architect of the CIA’s controversial “enhanced interrogation” program, hopes the administration of incoming president Donald Trump takes on and then opts for the less “politically correct” answer.
During the presidential campaign, Trump sanctioned torture, suggesting that he would bring back techniques such as waterboarding and “much worse.” However, his pick to head the Department of Defense, Gen. James Mattis, is an opponent of the harsh interrogation methods – preferably more humanitarian resources such as the build report.
Mitchell claims that the report is more likely to work on a regular jihadists, but that the top-tier planners are ultimately counting on America’s political correctness and the soft – to the terrorists’ mission easier.
“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (K. S. M.) really thought that in Sept. 11 a law was enforcement of the case would get transferred to the FBI and would give him time to launch more attacks,” Mitchell, 64, told FoxNews.com. “He was stunned when Bush said, ‘No, this is a war.’ He would foam at the mouth talking about ‘that cowboy George W. Bush.'”
Mitchell and fellow psychologist Bruce Jessen were brought in as CIA contractors after the attacks of 9/11 to remember and carry out enhanced interrogation techniques (Management) used on the most high value prisoners, including chief 9/11 planner, K. S. M., and senior Al Qaida member, Abu Zubaydah. Mitchell spent countless hours with these prisoners on a number of the CIA “black sites.”
He also stressed the need to FoxNews.com that the complete closure of Guantanamo Bay, where the likes of K. S. M. and Zubaydah be kept, would be a mistake.
“Those who remain are the worst of the worst,” Mitchell said. “The closing of Gitmo is one of those things that some politicians believe that the world is to us more and gives us the moral high ground. But in the mind of K. S. M., we seek to find the moral high ground is a sign of weakness.”
Mitchell remembered an afternoon “sit” with K. S. M. when the detainee admitted that while jihadist outfits do use Gitmo as a recruiting tool, as the off-shore prison were closed, they would find other fodder such as “the treatment of Muslim women in Europe” or the “presence of the unbelievers in the Arabian peninsula.”
But what most surprised him about K. S. M., was how “nice” and likeable he could be.
“He would hold your hand, try to manipulate [you],” Mitchell said. “It is easy to recognize evil if it looks evil and acts evil. It is more difficult to recognize evil when it seems to be attractive.”
Mitchell came under fire in late 2014 when the then Sen. Dianne Feinstein-led Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released an exhaustive report on interrogation techniques used on detainees. Feinstein called the program “a stain on our values and our history.”
However, Mitchell states that the Senate “cherry-picked” documents to suggest that the CIA’s use of such harsh techniques was not effective at gathering accurate intelligence.
In his experience, Mitchell said, the agency collected useful information during the duress of an actual EIT, but in the moments between, when inmates knew what to wait.
He also told FoxNews.com that the public disclosure of the indictment and the banning of earlier ministry of justice approved techniques such as waterboarding and sleep-deprivation plays in the terrorist playbook.
“It made us look divided, we are weak,” Mitchell said. “The signals that there are people in our government who are only concerned about the preservation of the moral high ground. And K. S. M. said that (the Americans) do not have the stomach to do what needs to be done, and that’s what this signals.”
Mitchell has since sought to set the record straight about his involvement in the program and at the end of last year released the book, “Enhanced Interrogation: the Thoughts and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America”, written in collaboration with former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.
In 2015, two ex-detainees in secret CIA prisons – the Tanzanian Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Libyan Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud – as well as a representative of the Afghan citizen, Gul Rahman, who died in custody probably as a result of hypothermia, filed a lawsuit against Mitchell and Jessen for the alleged violation of their human rights. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
Human rights organisations have also called for the contractors to be prosecuted.
While some CIA personnel have not acted with the approval of the government during the interrogations, Mitchell said, he is firmly convinced that he and Jessen are just fall guys.
The lawsuit trial is scheduled to begin in June, and if they are liable, it would be the first time that a U. S civil court judge has ruled that each individual is responsible for the widely condemned interrogation methods such as waterboarding.
“And the irony of all this is that the only two people who really tried to Rahman medical care,” Mitchell said, “me and Bruce.”