By Matthew Cole
The CIA has reportedly cut its ties to the two psychologists credited for being the architects of the CIA's brutal interrogation program after 9/11, a news report said yesterday. Dr. James Mitchell and Dr. Bruce Jessen, who suggested and supervised waterboarding at secret prisons around the world have been told their services are no longer needed. Mitchell and Jessen, according to their associates, boasted of being paid $1,000 a day by the CIA to oversee the use of the technique on top al Qaeda suspects.
Their firings came during a purge by CIA Director Leon Panetta of all contractors involved in the interrogation program. In early April, Panetta told CIA employees that contractors involved in the interrogation program and secret prisons were being "promptly terminated."
Mitchell and Jessen, who created a consulting company called Mitchell & Jessen Associates, are among the most public contractors who were let go. According to the most recent issue of the New Yorker, the psychologists had their contract renewed by the agency just weeks earlier, after President Obama took office, but before Panetta was confirmed as the new director.
The company had at least 120 employees as of 2007, according to a recent Senate investigation. One former military psychologist tells ABC News that Mitchell & Jessen charged the CIA roughly $500,000 a year for their services. It was this source's understanding that the money was largely tax-free and did not include expenses, which the agency also paid for.
In April, ABC News reported that neither Mitchell nor Jessen, both former military psychologists, who were part of a military training program that taught U.S. soldiers how to withstand harsh interrogation techniques, had any experience in conducting actual interrogations before they were hired by the CIA. The two, and later with additional employees, however, recommended so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."
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Air Force Colonel Steve Kleinman, a former colleague of both Mitchell and Jessen and an expert interrogator, told ABC News that the two knew virtually nothing about conducting interrogations.
"They went to two individuals who had no interrogation experience," said Col. Kleinman. "They are not interrogators."
The Obama administration has repeatedly said the regimen the CIA applied to top terrorism suspects was "torture." In his second full day in office, President Obama signed an executive order to halt all the techniques and close all CIA secret prisons.
Since then, however, the uproar over the Bush Administration counter-terrorism policies and CIA tactics have flared up. Former Vice President Richard B. Cheney has publically lashed out at the new administration. In a series of television interviews and speeches, Cheney has accused Obama of making the country less safe and more likely to get attacked by terrorism because he closed down the CIA prison system and the Mitchell and Jessen interrogation program.
CIA director Leon Panetta told the New Yorker magazine recently that he believes Cheney was playing "gallows politics." Panetta said, "It's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."
Mitchell and Jessen were headquartered for several years in Spokane, Washington, near a U.S. military base that served as their respective offices while serving in the military. Their unassuming downtown office has recently been vacated, according to ProPublica. Calls to their listed office number are now disconnected. Neither Mitchell nor Jessen would speak to ABC News citing non-disclosure agreements with the CIA.