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CIA Torture Architect Breaks Silence to Defend 'Enhanced Interrogation'

Psychologist James Mitchell claims torture 'was not illegal based on the law at the time.'

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Starting in 2002, the Department of Justice issued a series of top-secret legal opinions stating the interrogation techniques did not violate US laws against torture. But according to the summary obtained by McClatchy, the Senate report concludes that these opinions were based on misleading information provided by the CIA.

The CIA is currently facing battles on two fronts over its use of torture on terror suspects. The agency is embroiled in an unprecedented public row with Feinstein, who has accused it of violating the law by monitoring computers her committee's staff use to compile the report.

Meanwhile, allegations of abuse have taken center stage in the prosecutions of detainees at Guantánamo. The military judge overseeing the tribunals has ordered the CIA to provide a detailed account of the detention and interrogation in one of its secret prisons overseas of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is charged with orchestrating the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, which killed 17 US sailors. Lawyers for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others charged over the 9/11 attacks say they are seeking similar orders.

Mitchell, who said he was a supporter of Amnesty International, denied any involvement in the abuse of detainees at Guantánamo. In 2009, a scathing report from the Senate armed services committee report found that the coercive interrogations originated from techniques developed by the psychologists.

“We didn't have a damn thing to do with that,” Mitchell said. Instead, he said, the blame lay with Pentagon contractors and civilian staff “who wanted to help out and made some dumb mistakes”.

But Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for the committee, said the information in its report was accurate.

Steven Kleinman, an air force colonel who participated in interrogations in Iraq and who is credited with blowing the whistle on abuses taking place there, told the Guardian he did not understand how Mitchell could still believe torture methods that generated false confessions could also produce “reliable, accurate and timely intelligence”.

“Why would anybody think that a model that would produce those outcomes would also be effective in producing the opposite?” Kleinman said.

 
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