Now check to see if they had any academic credentials at all.
December 16, 2014, New York Times, CIA, on Path to Torture, Chose Haste Over Analysis, by James Risen and Matt Apuzzo,
WASHINGTON — Almost immediately after transferring the first important prisoner they had captured since the 9/11 attacks to a secret prison in Thailand, officials of the Central Intelligence Agency met at the agency's headquarters to debate two questions they had been discussing for months. Who would interrogate Abu Zubaydah, and how?
A C.I.A. lawyer at the April 1, 2002, meeting suggested the name of a psychologist, James Mitchell, who had been on contract for several months, analyzing Al Qaeda for the agency's Office of Technical Service, the arm of the C.I.A. that creates disguises and builds James Bond-like spy gadgets.
The lawyer, Jonathan Fredman, had heard the name from someone in the office, and within hours of floating it, counterterrorism officials were on the phone with Mr. Mitchell. By that evening, according to the report released last week by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the agency had incorporated Mr. Mitchell's views into a classified cable ordering preparations for the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a Qaeda operative.
The cable called for constant lighting, loud music and an all-white room to keep Abu Zubaydah awake. The setup would cause "psychological disorientation, and reduced psychological wherewithal," the cable read.
With little debate or vetting of Mr. Mitchell and his approach, the C.I.A. that day in 2002 started down a road to interrogation practices that Senator Dianne Feinstein, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, last week called "a stain on our values and our history."
In the months that followed, Mr. Mitchell, a former Air Force explosives expert and trainer, and later his partner, Bruce Jessen, another psychologist and former Air Force officer, designed, led and directed the interrogations and became the prime advocates for what is now widely considered to have been torture. In the process, they made tens of millions of dollars under contracts that their critics within the C.I.A. warned at the time gave them financial incentives to repeatedly use the most brutal techniques.
The C.I.A. has said it hired Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen because their experience with "nonstandard" interrogation was "unparalleled." But the government's own experts favored the traditional approach to questioning prisoners. And the Senate report makes clear that the speed with which Mr. Mitchell was brought into the program — less than 24 hours elapsed between the time his name was floated and that first cable — meant there was no time to analyze whether his approach was best.
Former officials involved in the program attribute the speed to one thing: desperation. With the C.I.A. under pressure to obtain information from its prisoners, Mr. Mitchell seemed to have the answer to how to do it.
That eagerness for a new, aggressive approach is reflected elsewhere in the Senate report. One C.I.A. officer said the agency's best intelligence justifying harsh interrogations came from a "walk-in" source — someone who appeared one day and told the C.I.A. that Allah permitted jihadists to cooperate only if they were threatened. There is no evidence in the report that the C.I.A. ever corroborated those assertions.
In a lengthy interview last week after the C.I.A. released him from an order forbidding his talking about his role in its program, Mr. Mitchell said the speed of his hiring was a surprise even to him. "I never knew how that happened," he said. "I just got a phone call."
But, he said, it was not something he sought. "I didn't knock on the gate and say, 'Let me torture people,"" he said.
Mr. Mitchell added that he disagreed with the conclusions of the Senate report and believes he has been unfairly demonized. His role, he said, was more complicated than has been presented.
Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen had worked as trainers at the Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) program, which subjected American airmen to the kind of interrogation they might face if captured so they could learn to resist it. Building on that experience, Mr. Mitchell proposed to the C.I.A. a list of so-called enhanced interrogation tactics, including locking people in cramped boxes, shackling them in painful positions, keeping them awake for a week at a time, covering them with insects, and waterboarding, which simulates drowning and which the United States had considered torture.
Though the earliest mention of these tactics in the Senate report is July 2002, Justice Department documents released years ago show that C.I.A. officials began discussing them within days of the April 1 meeting when Mr. Mitchell was brought aboard. John Rizzo, the agency's top lawyer at the time, also placed those discussions in April in his memoir "Company Man." He described some of the tactics as "sadistic and terrifying" but left it to Justice Department lawyers to decide whether they were legal. They ultimately decided they were.
Shortly after the April 1 meeting, the C.I.A. dispatched Mr. Mitchell to Thailand, where he was to consult on the "psychological aspects" of the interrogation, according to a C.I.A. cable cited in the report. Mr. Mitchell's original contract with the agency had been to study Al Qaeda's strategies for resisting interrogation. Later, Mr. Mitchell personally waterboarded Abu Zubaydah in Thailand. But Mr. Mitchell said that at first, his job was to observe Abu Zubaydah's interrogation and assess whether he was using the Qaeda techniques.
"I was making recommendations to a team who were doing the interrogation," he said. "But there was intense pressure for results. There was a tremendous amount of pressure not to let other Americans die."
That summer, as Justice Department lawyers and the White House finalized the legal memos justifying the interrogations, Mr. Mitchell said he gave a presentation outlining an aggressive approach. He disputes the notion that he pushed the agency down a road it did not want to go. "It was clear to me from walking the halls that they were going to use coercive interrogations," he said. "It was clear that was the direction they were going."
The SERE techniques, he said, were an attempt to standardize the interrogation process and bolster it with research. "I said, if you are going to use coercive techniques, then don't let people just freelance," Mr. Mitchell recalled. "Use something that people have a track record with."
The Central Intelligence Agency used waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other techniques on dozens of the men it detained in secret prisons between 2002 and 2008.
There was broad consensus among behavioral scientists, however, that torture did not work — subjects became so eager to stop the pain that they did not provide accurate information. And Mr. Mitchell was proposing to take techniques employed in simulations and use them for actual interrogations.
The Senate report indicates that at least some information suggesting that SERE methods were ineffective as interrogation tactics was never shared with the Justice Department. Nevertheless, the department authorized the techniques, and the C.I.A. asked Mr. Mitchell to use them.
"After a lot of soul searching, I agreed to do it," Mr. Mitchell said. "But I knew that at that moment, my life as I knew it was over. I went through my ethical obligations, and decided for me, the least worst choice was to help save American lives. It felt like something was going to happen at any minute. I felt like you had to do something."
Mr. Mitchell suggested that the C.I.A. also hire Mr. Jessen, a friend and former colleague. In the Air Force, Mr. Jessen had helped screen the instructors who posed as interrogators. Occasionally, he played the interrogator himself, and was once called out by colleagues for being too aggressive. Mr. Jessen did not respond to repeated interview requests.
In Thailand, only Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen were allowed to use the new tactics. For nearly a month, they interrogated Abu Zubaydah, at one point waterboarding him until he lost consciousness. Some C.I.A. officials said they were repulsed by the brutal methods, according to the Senate report, and cables showed that some wanted out of the program. Some officials, in fact, grew to resent the contractors, complaining that they refused to listen to alternatives, the report says. "I would sometimes feel it," Mr. Mitchell said. "It was nothing ever said to me, but I could feel it sometimes."
Yet the Senate report shows that Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen prevailed, backed by allies at C.I.A. headquarters, including on the agency's Bin Laden team and at the Counterterrorism Center, who believed that Abu Zubaydah — and later others — were holding back information. It eventually became difficult to distinguish between the C.I.A. and Mitchell and Jessen Associates, the Spokane, Wash.-based company they formed, according to the Senate report.
In 2005, the C.I.A. awarded the company a contract to provide interrogation services. Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen hired psychologists, interrogators and security personnel as the program spread to secret prisons in Afghanistan, Romania, Poland and Lithuania.
By 2006, contractors made up 73 percent of the people at the C.I.A.'s Renditions and Detention Group, the office in charge of interrogations. The majority were from Mitchell and Jessen Associates, according to the report. Mr. Mitchell said the C.I.A. made it clear that they wanted him to form the company as a way to combat the high turnover. "They wanted to have people who had retired who knew the skills," he said. In one example, the chief of the C.I.A. division that supervised the interrogation program became the firm's chief operating officer when he retired.
Mitchell and Jessen Associates had one central purpose, and when President Obama shut down the interrogation program in 2009, it was over. "The company didn't last after they shut down the program," Mr. Mitchell said.
The C.I.A. terminated the contract after paying the company $81 million of a contract that could have been worth twice that much. That does not include the money Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Jessen made before 2005, when the C.I.A. paid them a daily rate.
Both men are now retired — Mr. Mitchell to Florida and Mr. Jessen to Spokane, Wash. But both have faced continuing problems from their role in the torture program, and the C.I.A. is obligated to keep paying the legal expenses of Mitchell and Jessen Associates through 2021.
Even before the Senate report, both had been publicly linked to the C.I.A.'s interrogation program, and as a result their role has been a source of controversy.
In 2010, the Texas State Board of Psychologists considered a complaint filed against Mr. Mitchell by critics who wanted his license to practice psychology revoked. The complaint was unsuccessful.
In 2012, Mr. Jessen was selected to be a bishop in the Mormon Church in Spokane, but he was forced to step down "due to concerns expressed about his past work related to interrogation techniques," a spokesman for the Mormon Church said.
Mr. Mitchell said he disagreed with the Senate committee's conclusions, although he said he was "fascinated" by the report because it has revealed things to him that he did not know. "I was just a cog in the machine," he said.
Above all, he disputes that he was in control of the interrogation program. "The idea that I was managing things and running things is not true," he said.
But, he added, "it would be a lie to say I didn't have influence."
Marilyn Garateix contributed reporting from Land O' Lakes, Fla., and Bill Loftus from Spokane, Wash.
A version of this article appears in print on December 16, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: C.I.A., on Path to Torture, Chose Haste Over Analysis.