The Center for the Victims of Torture (CVT) reports that despite the immediate physical and psychological pain and suffering caused by torture, the real purpose of torture “is to break an individual’s will and render them helpless, destroy a sense of community, stifle civil society, create a climate of fear and silence dissent.”


The New York terror attacks on September 11, 2001 prompted the United States to declare both an official and quasi-official “war on terror” that led both the nation’s intelligence and military institutions to systematically engage in torture in violation of the UN Convention Against Torture and U.S. law. The torture programs were carried on in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and in CIA “black site” prisons operated in at least thirty countries.


Human Experimentation and CIA Torture Makes Doc Rich


To get its specialized torture program—officially dubbed an “enhanced interrogation” program–underway, the CIA turned to two psychologists identified in a June 2017 study released by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), titled “Nuremberg Betrayed: Human Experimentation and the CIA Torture Program, as James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They were each paid $1 million plus another $81 million paid to their consulting company Mitchell Jessen and Associates for the unethical and illegal services provided to the intelligence agency. The PHR report stated that enhanced interrogation program included such torture methods as “waterboarding, isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, forced nudity, extreme temperature manipulation, and stress positions.”


The Mitchell/Jessen torture methods, according to the PHR, spread fairly rapidly from the CIA black site prison facilities to the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The PHR study also found that:


“In addition to Mitchell and Jessen, who ultimately designed, implemented, and oversaw a vast regime of psychological torture and ill-treatment, a wide range of health professionals were complicit in the program. Psychologists, physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and medics participated in torture, monitored and collected data ostensibly to manage harm, maintained abusive detention conditions and treatment, and provided basic care to an institutionalized population. They were involved in the following activities: withholding food, medical care, and personal hygiene; medically clearing detainees for torture; medically treating detainees to return to abusive treatment; sharing medical information with interrogators; advising on the application of techniques; directly committing acts of torture and ill-treatment; studying and experimenting with the effects of torture; failing to stop and report abuse; and concealing evidence of mistreatment.”


In October 2015, three the of the detainees subjected to the Mitchell/Jessen torture methods and the family of a fourth detainee who died from the extreme cold torture method in a CIA black site prison filed a lawsuit with the help of the ACLU against the two psychologists. Ten months earlier (December 3, 2014) the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), issued a report titled Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program which specifically found that CIA detainees were in fact subject to torture “under any common meaning of the term.” The two psychologists settled the lawsuit in a secret agreement in August 2017.


Military Tribunal Hears Testimony of Torture Techniques


In the third week of January 2020, Mitchell and Jessen once again found themselves in a courtroom—this time a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay—to testify about their infamous torture methods. They are testifying in the 40th pretrial hearing in the terrorism cases being prosecuted by the U.S. military against 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendant and nephew Ammar al Baluchi, along with three other defendants. Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times by Mitchell and Jessen.


While Mitchell offered some defense of his methods by saying he was a “moderate” who adhered to the rules set out in the program, and, in fact, had tried to stop the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah, it is evident that the torture program had absolutely no legitimacy in either medical ethics, U.S. law, and U.S. military law.


Writing in the January 25, 2020 edition of The Guardian, Julian Borger crystallized the atrocity of the Mitchell/Jessen torture methods, both on the part of the two medical contractors and the CIA’s own torturers:


“The longer the hearings have continued, the clearer it has become that the Mitchell and Jessen partnership was just a small part of the infrastructure of torture, with its own bureaucracy and personal rivalries. In his testimony, Mitchell railed repeatedly against the “middle management” who he believed was plotting against him.


“Mitchell became embroiled in a vicious turf war with a rival, the CIA chief of interrogations, for mastery of the ‘enhanced programme’. Each sought to use their links to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, to get the other removed from their post. In that struggle the detainees were used as bargaining counters. The two men had them tortured for training or demonstration purposes.”


The Preacher Haunts Detainees


To this day, as explained by Bolger, one of the CIA’s torturers—known as “The Preacher” and identified by the three-digit code NZ7—has not been identified, despite his major role in helping Mitchell and Jessen set up their torture program. Mitchell testified at the recent hearing that The Preacher helped draft and apply the Mitchell/Jessen “enhanced interrogation techniques.”


Mitchell said The Preacher was particularly fond speaking in a Southern drawl with one hand on the detainee’s forehead and the other in the air, saying: “Can you feel it, son? Can you feel the spirit moving down my arm, into your body?”


Mitchell identified a second CIA torturer, known as NX2 and identified as Charles Wise, who, according to Bolger, honed his torture skills in the 1980s in Nicaragua carrying out interrogations for the Contras who, at the time, were being supported by the Reagan administration.


Government Stonewalls Release of Torture Records


Wise died of a heart attack shortly after his dismissal from the CIA in 2003. The convenient “heart attack” silenced the torturer about all the intelligence agency’s torture activities, especially those of “The Preacher.”


The military tribunals, and particularly the prosecutors in the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed case, are doing everything possible to keep evidence about both the CIA and the military’s involvement in the Mitchell/Jessen program away from public scrutiny.


This stonewalling effort will be particularly easy since President Trump, the nation’s commander in chief, has continuously exhibited an affinity for torture through his pardon powers for convicted “war criminals”—those convicted of torture related crimes. All the NZ7s and “preachers” in either the CIA and the military now know that as long as Trump occupies the White House, they are free to torture, murder and maim at will without any fear of accountability.


There is no “deep state” in America. There is only a “dark state” exhibited by the Mitchell/Jessen program and all those who now realize they can resurrect such programs at any time they chose under the Trump administration.