Thursday, 23 January 2020

Psychologist Who Waterboarded Alleged Mastermind Of 9/11 Attacks: ‘I Would Do It Again’

On Tuesday, testifying before a military commission prepared to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks which killed roughly 3,000 Americans, James Mitchell, the psychologist who supervised the CIA’s interrogation program after September 11 and has been attacked because some of those techniques included waterboarding, defiantly told the commission, “Let me tell you, just so you know: if it were today, I would do it again.”
Mitchell and another psychologist, John “Bruce” Jessen, helped create the interrogation techniques used on the terrorists. Mitchell stated, “I thought of my moral obligation to protect American lives against the temporary discomfort of terrorists who took up arms against America. I decided I would just live with it.”
As the Los Angeles Times noted, “The five men — Mohammed and his nephew, Ammar Baluchi, along with Ramzi bin Shibh, Mustafa Hawsawi and Walid bin Attash — are accused of conspiring to murder almost 3,000 people. They were all captured in either 2002 or 2003 and have been in American custody since.”
James G. Connell III, lead defense attorney for Baluchi, thanked Mitchell for coming to court. Mitchell fired back, “I actually did it for the victims and families, not for you.” He later stated, “You folks have been saying untrue and malicious things about me and Dr. Jessen for years, so you shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t want to spend a lot of time with you.”
The Telegraph reported in 2011, “American officials have said that one of the crucial clues that led to bin Laden was a piece of information about an al-Qaeda courier that came from September 11th mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or from the so-called 20th hijacker, Mohammad al-Qahtani.”
Speaking in a powerful interview with AEI fellow Marc Thiessen in 2016, Mitchell said of KSM, “In the beginning he was like the devil; he was belligerent; he was hostile; he was angry; then after EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) and we drifted into debriefings, he became charming and more cordial. You know, evil doesn’t always look evil; it’s most powerful when it can get inside your defenses, and KSM is one of those guys, when he turns on the charm, he’s extremely good at it.”
Mitchell continued, “Interrogation for the CIA was when you were questioning somebody who was actively trying to resist providing you with the information. They’re trying to hide their secrets and wouldn’t engage with the question. So in those particular cases, the enhanced interrogation techniques would be used normally only for a couple of weeks. Usually within about 72 hours, people were beginning to try to find ways to cooperate. When they started to find ways to cooperate, we moved as quickly as we could into debriefing.”
Mitchell explained that the so-called “fireside chats” following the debriefing sometimes yielded information because the individual felt that the official debriefing was over and would relax and talk more freely. Mitchell spoke of how KSM later gave classes to CIA members on various subjects related to terrorism, such as how they got their funding, etc. Mitchell said KSM would say afterward, “Now you should be on the FBI’s most wanted list because you’ve been trained by KSM.”
Mitchell said other individuals spent time playing basketball or other pursuits, but KSM liked to pontificate. Speaking of how KSM could turn on the charm, he said, “It was like Yoda. It was like talking to Yoda. Except that Yoda could sometimes be the devil.”
Mitchell recalled Jessen saying to KSM, “You know I noticed at times that it looked like you wanted to say something, like you had more to say, but then you backed away from it.” Mitchell continued, “KSM looked at me, you know, like I was his errand boy, he looked at me and he said, ‘Go get that lady who takes the notes,’ even though she was the WMD expert and a phenomenal analyst, remember, he’s a terrorist who basically didn’t like women; didn’t really like talking to them. And he said, ‘Go get that lady who takes the notes,’ and then when she came back with me, he described beheading and dismembering Daniel Pearl.”
Mitchell continued, “I did tear up, of course, I tear up a lot; I cry at dog food commercials, but he talked about cutting his throat and dismembering him, and one of us, I can’t remember which one of us it was, said, ‘Was that difficult for you?’ because we found it reprehensible, and he said, ‘Oh, no. I had lots of sharp knives, and I had to keep sharpening them; the only difficult thing was cutting through the neck bone.’ Just that casually. And then he went on to describe, like I said, how he’d dismembered him and buried him in a hole because the ground was too frozen. It was horrible.”
Mitchell recalled that the CIA went back to confirm KSM had actually been the one who beheaded Pearl, and when he was told that it had been confirmed, he said, “Yes. I cut his head off with these blessed hands.” Mitchell said, “And he was mugging for the camera.”

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