Pay and Suffering: Psychologists Made $80M From CIA Interrogation Program

Psychologist tells ABC News: Senate report is "bull****."

ByABC News
December 9, 2014, 6:19 PM

— -- The two psychologists contracted by the CIA to design the enhanced interrogation techniques used against al Qaeda suspects were paid more than $80 million, even though they were never themselves interrogators, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “torture report,” released today -- a report that one of the psychologists told ABC News was "bulls**t."

“On the CIA’s behalf, the contract psychologists developed theories of interrogation based on ‘learned helplessness,’ and developed the list of enhanced interrogation techniques that was approved for use against [al Qaeda operative] Abu Zubaydah and subsequent CIA detainees,” the report says, referring to the list of techniques that included slapping captives and waterboarding, among others. "By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program."

In 2009, ABC News identified the psychologists as former military officers Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

“The whole intense interrogation concept that we hear about, is essentially their concepts,” Col. Steven Kleinman, an Air Force interrogator, said in the original ABC News report.

Both Mitchell and Jessen declined to speak with ABC News for the 2009 report, but today Mitchell said that he believed the Senate report to be politically-motivated "bulls**t".

"I think it's despicable that they cherry-picked all of that stuff," Mitchell told ABC News, while insisting that he could not confirm nor deny his involvement in the program due to a nondisclosure agreement. "There were a lot of men and women in the CIA who put their lives on the line, and some of them died after 9/11 protecting the United States. And to suggest that they lied to the President, that they lied to the Senate, that they falsified intel reports so they could make a program look better than it was, is despicable."

"The men and women of the CIA put their lives on the line, put their personal lives on hold, and sacrificed for this country. And now at last, before they leave, dump this steaming load of crap out?" Mitchell said.

Before working for the Agency, Mitchell and Jessen were involved in the U.S. military program that trains pilots and other high-risk service members to survive behind enemy lines and resist brutal tactics if captured.

But the Senate report said, "Neither psychologist had any experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of [al Qaeda], a background in counterterrorism, or any relevant cultural or linguistic expertise."

As ABC News reported in 2009, CIA documents revealed then indicated that Jessen and Mitchell’s waterboarding “expertise” was probably “misrepresented" and thus, there was no reason to believe it was "medically safe" or effective. The waterboarding used on al Qaeda detainees was far more intense than the brief sessions used on U.S. military personnel in the training classes.

According to today’s Senate report, the two created their own company specifically to deal with the CIA and secured a “base contract” with the CIA “in excess of $180 million.” The contractors actually received $81 million before the contract was terminated in 2009, the report says. Associates told ABC News in 2009 that the pair bragged about making $1,000 a day.

More broadly, the Senate report criticized the whole enhanced interrogation program, saying the techniques were “not effective” and that the CIA management of the program was “inadequate and deeply flawed.”

Mitchell declined to comment on the reported $81 million, but further described his feelings about the report:

"It's like somebody backed up to your driveway and dumped a steaming pile of horse crap," he told ABC News.

ABC News was unable to reach Jessen for comment on this report.

ABC News' Brad Martin contributed to this report.