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Who are James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen? Evidently the Senate Armed Service Committee is very eager to learn more about Mitchell and Jessen and the role they played in the development of torture techniques for the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. The word is that a contract was issued out of the office of Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, and the charge was to study the SEALs’ SERE program and extract from it a series of interrogation techniques for use on high-value detainees. Since the SERE program was designed to train special operations personnel to resist techniques used by the Soviets, the project apparently entailed extracting and using those very techniques.
Mark Benjamin reports at Salon:
Mitchell and Jessen have worked as contractors for the CIA since 9/11. Both were previously affiliated with the military’s SERE program, which at its main school at Fort Bragg puts elite special operations forces through brutal mock interrogations, from sensory deprivation to simulated drowning. A previously classified report by the Defense Department’s inspector general, made public last month, revealed in vivid detail how the military — in flat contradiction to previous denials — used SERE as a basis for interrogating suspected al-Qaida prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, and later in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, the involvement of the CIA, which was secretly granted broad authority by President Bush days after 9/11 to target terrorists worldwide, suggests that both the military and the spy agency were following a policy approved by senior Bush administration officials.
Close coordination between the CIA and the Pentagon is referred to in military lingo as “jointness.” A retired high-level military official, familiar with the detainee abuse scandals, confirmed that such “jointness” requires orchestration at the top levels of government. “This says that somebody is acting as a bridge between the CIA and the Defense Department,” he said, “because you’ve got the [CIA] side and the military side, and they are collaborating.” Human-rights expert Scott Horton, who chairs the International Law Committee at the New York City Bar Association, also says that the cross-agency coordination “reflects the fact that the decision to introduce and develop these methods was made at a very high level.”
Benjamin also notes the developing body of evidence concerning collaboration between psychologists and the torture program. A large group of psychologists have demanded the initiation of disciplinary action against R. Scott Shumate, identified as a CIA psychologist deeply involved in the torture program. A letter making this demand was delivered to the president of the American Psychological Association today.
Two major additional articles on this subject will appear in the next few days. Slowly, we’re getting to the bottom of this story. We’re learning who the torture plotters were, who made the policies that enable them, and who betrayed their oaths as health care professionals to support them. The next step will be proper legal accountability, because much of this conduct is felonious.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.
The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.
Number of Turkish college students detained in the last year for requesting Kurdish-language classes:
Turkey was funding a search for Suleiman the Magnificent’s heart.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”