Expert: Enhanced interrogation techniques ‘saved lives’
An interrogation expert said Saturday that allowing enhanced interrogation techniques — many of which are considered to be torture — to be used on terrorist detainees remains necessary.
James Mitchell, a psychologist who served 22 years in the U.S. Air Force and who helped develop the CIA’s post-9/11 enhanced interrogation program, told CNN’s Michael Smerconish that he believed the methods, including waterboarding, are effective.
“Take the CIA’s word for it,” he said.
“They said it disrupted attacks. That it allowed them to understand better the enemy that we had. That it saved lives and that it prevented another catastrophic attack here in the United States.”
Mitchell authored a book, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America,” in which he described what it was like to personally perform enhanced interrogation techniques on five high-value detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks.
“For me, it was a moral decision,” Mitchell explained.
“In my mind, the temporary discomfort of a terrorist who has voluntarily taken up arms to destroy our way of life does not outweigh my moral obligation to do what I can to save hundreds, maybe thousands of people.”
President-elect Donald Trump was vocal on the campaign trail about his support of torture, especially waterboarding. Last month, however, he said he was “surprised” to learn that his pick for secretary of defense, retired Gen. James Mattis, didn’t believe waterboarding was effective.
Mitchell insisted, however, that the choice should be clear for the country’s next president.
“Our President-elect needs to ask himself, what is he going to do the next time that there is credible intelligence that our enemies intend to set off a possibly nuclear bomb or some other catastrophic weapon inside of one of our cities?” he said. “Is he willing to live with the results of that?”
In June, the CIA released 50 declassified documents detailing its use of brutal interrogation techniques on terrorist suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The documents made public a series of memos detailing interrogation methods that President Barack Obama has labeled “torture” but the CIA refers to as “expanded interrogation” and has also been called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The documents also contain internal discussions of the legality of these methods.
A 2015 Senate report said enhanced interrogation techniques were ineffective in “obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.”
The report added: “The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.”