Meet the Rich Shrinks Behind Torture Program

Michael Daly at the Daily Beast introduces us to James Mitchell and John Jessen, the two psychologists that the CIA paid more than $80 million to design the torture program they used (despite the fact that neither of them had any experience with interrogations at all).

James Elmer Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen are not the first Americans to employ waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” against our enemies.

But they are almost certainly the only ones to get rich doing it.

They did so by employing what is widely dismissed as “voodoo science” based on misapplied principles in a program that CIA records suggest produced little, if any, intelligence of significant value.

And they might have gotten even richer. The Senate Intelligence Committee report says they secured a contract with the CIA in 2006 valued “in excess of $180 million.”

The CIA canceled the deal three years later, but by then the duo had received $81 million. They had more than enough to build fabulous new domiciles that surely at least equal their wildest dreams.

Mitchell’s pied a torture is in Florida. Records describe a waterfront residence on six-tenths of an acre and appraised at more than $880,000, with 4,233 square feet of living space, four bathrooms, a three-car garage, a pool, central air-conditioning, and a wooded walkway leading to a lakeside combination dock and gazebo.

Jessen’s is in the state of Washington, situated on 15 acres and appraised at $1,599,900. Records describe this house as 6,916 square feet, with six bedrooms and eight bathrooms. An aerial image shows what appears to be a spa, roiling water apparently carrying no nasty connotations.

The houses that torture built. There’s a ton more in that article, including how Mitchell and Jessen used psychological research on dogs to justify the efficacy of their program.

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  • D. C. Sessions

    There’s at least a chance that they’ll be held responsible for illegal research on animals.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    Their use of Seligman’s “Learned Helplesness” was ridiculous. That research has been used to develop treatments for depression (Cognitive Based Therapy has its origins in learned helplessness.) Learned helplessness would be a good indicator as to why torture doesn’t work.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Mitchell’s pied a torture is in Florida. Records describe a waterfront residence on six-tenths of an acre and appraised at more than $880,000, with 4,233 square feet of living space, four bathrooms, a three-car garage, a pool, central air-conditioning, and a wooded walkway leading to a lakeside combination dock and gazebo.

    In Florida? Talk about torture!

  • dugglebogey

    What info did they get from dogs to prove that their torture works? How good snausages taste? Whether they think beggin strips really to taste like bacon?

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    I’m guessing the Republicans who happily let themselves be conned by these quacks will never question their own judgment — they’ll just use this as another excuse to demonize science and scientists.

    These two charlatans will surely go down in history as the Donald Trumps of psychology.

  • anubisprime

    I suppose when that comfortable…looking in the mirror in the morning light is not so much a self realization bordering on severe embarrassment of their lack of humanity more of a satisfaction with their own good fortune to be so ethically challenged as to disregard any thoughts regarding the damage that they have been architects of, from the victims bodies, and minds to the standing of their own country in the eyes of the world…but hell the country club fees do not pay themselves!

    What do they care? they are not the grunts on the ground that come face to face with the sheer hatred their techniques have engendered over the years and on top of the other issues that have traditionally twisted terrorist minds.

  • John Pieret

    Mitchell’s pied a torture is in Florida. Records describe a waterfront residence on six-tenths of an acre and appraised at more than $880,000

    Pffft! Pikers! The people on Marco Island pay more than that for their cabanas.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    The research on dogs was Seligman’s, not these idiots.

    If you’re interested, read his book “Learned Optimism”

  • NitricAcid

    I hope the gazebo kills their paladins.

  • eric

    I’m guessing the Republicans who happily let themselves be conned by these quacks will never question their own judgment

    Its an obscene situation, but I take some small comfort in the thought that it took the government $160 million (in promises, even if not delivered) to buy two psychologists’ complicity in designing a torture program. In all honesty, my cynical side would’ve expected the ‘buying price’ to be two-three orders of magnitude less. The fact that they couldn’t find anyone more credible to build it for less money is actually kind of a positive thing.

  • Loqi

    @NitricAcid

    My thief is going to backstab them to make sure.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    eric: I just wonder how the pay negotiations went. Did the quacks just name a price, or did they play coy and make ominous rumbles about conscience and ethics until the Bush crew finally said “Okay, eighty mil each, and that’s our final offer! And we mean it this time!”?

  • hoku

    Raging Bee @ 12

    For me that’s the most confusing part. I can get my mind around how someone justifies torture to themselves. I can understand the malice and hate and fear involved. I cannot wrap my head around how someone was able to approve that much money for unskilled planning that essentially amounted to non-novel non-protected ideas.

  • eric

    @12: I dunno. Typically the government puts out a request to private industry to propose a way to meed the government’s need. Various bidders respond, and the government picks the one that they think is the best (a combination of soundness of proposal, cost, etc… but more often than not, cost is a major factor). However, in the world of top secret, it probably doesn’t work that way. They probably had to approach someone they’d already worked with. That would jack up the price to begin with, because the private side knows they have a ‘captive market.’ However, even with that issue, that’s an absurd amount of money. I have to think that either (a) a lot of precleared people they approached were just unwilling to do the work, and so they had to pick the only people who said yes regardless of their ridiculous bid, or (b) they only approached these two, these two knew the CIA couldn’t really approach anyone else, and they responded by making themselves rich.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    From the linked article:

    Those who spoke out against it included a fellow Air Force colonel, Lindsay Graham, who also happens to be a U.S. senator.

    In his capacity as a reservist with the Air Force Judge Advocate’s Office, Graham co-authored a 2013 paper, titled ”Waterboarding: Issues and Lessons.”

    Sen. Graham has a clear entitlement to his military pension, but doesn’t it constitute double-dipping for him to have active employment and a paycheck from the military (executive branch) at the same time he collects a salary from the Senate (legislative branch)?

  • eric

    @15: if he was a reservist, why would it? His “day job” job pays him for his M-F work and his reservist gig pays him for the work he does one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. At least, that’s how reserve duty is advertised on the radio.

  • colnago80

    Re eric @ #16

    That’s correct. I knew a number of people who were in the reserves and were also government employees.