Architect of C.I.A. Torture Program Testifies Prisoners Acted Properly Adjusted

This text was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Heart on Disaster Reporting.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — After 183 rounds of waterboarding, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the person accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults, spent his years in C.I.A. detention as a captivating captive who dabbled in Islamic mysticism and engaged in pleasantries with the psychologist who waterboarded him, that psychologist informed a battle crimes prosecutor on Thursday.

James E. Mitchell, who as a contractor for the C.I.A. helped develop the company’s interrogation program and dealt with all of the waterboarding, stated Mr. Mohammed managed so properly in his final three years within the secret prisons after the violent questioning had ended that the 2 males would sit and maintain palms, as Center Jap males typically do.

He stated Mr. Mohammed placed on a “allure initiative” and described him as a well-adjusted detainee who by no means expressed worry of him, gave the psychologist a nickname, “Abu Captain,” and sought his assist in bettering his circumstances as he was moved by way of the completely different C.I.A. black websites.

Mr. Mohammed’s lawyer rejected Dr. Mitchell’s account, saying his consumer was motivated by worry in coping with the psychologist.

Dr. Mitchell supplied his description in response to questioning by a prosecutor, Jeffrey D. Groharing. Dr. Mitchell stated that he had assessed Mr. Mohammed and 4 different males accused of conspiring within the 9/11 assaults to be of sound thoughts when he noticed them within the black websites.

Dr. Mitchell described visiting the websites, the place his contracting agency supplied the guards, and stated he detected no indicators of flashbacks, nightmares or apathy by the 5 males, who’re scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 11, 2021. Protection legal professionals sought Dr. Mitchell’s testimony to assist the decide resolve whether or not the boys had been tortured and whether or not solutions they gave to F.B.I. brokers a number of months after their switch to Guantánamo in 2006 had been voluntary. Involuntary admissions are forbidden in battle crimes trials.

For eight days, protection legal professionals used C.I.A. cables from the black websites to query Dr. Mitchell in regards to the interrogation program he designed to strain Qaeda suspects to reply C.I.A. questions by utilizing waterboarding, sleep deprivation and strategies generally known as short-shackling and walling.

The lawyer for one defendant, Walid bin Attash, who was captured with a prosthetic leg from a battle wound, confirmed on Thursday C.I.A. cables describing his consumer as being saved nude and shackled standing on his solely leg throughout a protracted stretch of sleep deprivation. It included a C.I.A. medical officer’s measurements of the swelling of his foot, ankle and calf.

Dr. Mitchell stated he by no means noticed the person throughout that interval. In response to the prosecutor, he testified that Mr. bin Attash was a well-adjusted, proud warrior when he caught up with him later.

Mr. bin Attash stated that earlier than the Sept. 11 assaults, he helped blow up the Nice Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, a World Heritage website, Dr. Mitchell stated.

At subject within the pretrial proceedings is whether or not the defendants had been so totally broken by torture once they arrived at Guantánamo in 2006 that they had been helpless to do something however inform F.B.I. brokers what they needed to listen to.

Dr. Mitchell and his accomplice, John Bruce Jessen, designed and carried out the interrogation program. Whereas he was held in a secret C.I.A. jail in Poland in March 2003, Mr. Mohammed was waterboarded, disadvantaged of sleep and had his head slammed in opposition to a wall.

Dr. Mitchell defined this system this manner: As soon as the C.I.A. prisoners understood that resistance can be met with violence, they cooperated throughout subsequent years of questioning.

A lot so, Dr. Mitchell stated, that for a time earlier than the defendants had been despatched to Guantánamo, they had been assembled at a single C.I.A. black website in isolation and unaware that the others had been there. Interrogators might go to every cell with the identical for identification.

Dr. Mitchell stated he known as the place T3, for Terrorist Assume Tank.

He described the purpose of the interrogations and debriefings as getting uncooked intelligence about impending plots and Qaeda associates for intelligence quite than prosecutorial functions.

Mr. Mohammed, Dr. Mitchell stated, volunteered earlier than he was waterboarded — however after he was brutally interrogated in Afghanistan — that he was chargeable for the Sept. 11 assaults that killed 2,976 individuals in New York, Pennsylvania and on the Pentagon.

With Mr. Mohammed sitting impassively in court docket, his lawyer, David Nevin, reeled off a collection of actions that his consumer related to Dr. Mitchell: taking custody of him quickly after rectal abuse, waterboarding him and threatening to kill his youngster. Mr. Nevin steered that Mr. Mohammed was good to Dr. Mitchell as a result of he was afraid of him.

“He by no means as soon as complained to me about my relationship with him,” Dr. Mitchell stated. “I introduced him as many good issues as unhealthy issues. That disrupts that type of classical conditioning.”

For instance, Dr. Mitchell stated that when Mr. Mohammed turned enthusiastic about Sufism, a type of Islamic mysticism, the psychologist intervened with the C.I.A. to let him set hours for his debriefings that didn’t disrupt his prayers, by letting him dangle an “open” signal on his cell.

Dr. Mitchell additionally stated that to distract his debriefers from their pursuit of ongoing plots, Mr. Mohammed stated that he had personally beheaded the Wall Avenue Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, on Jan. 23, 2002. Mr. Mohammed invited investigators to check his furry arm to the one in an web video of the beheading. He has not been charged within the killing.

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