‘Enhanced Interrogation’ Architect Dr. James Mitchell’s Testimony at Guantánamo Highlights His Role in U.S. Torture, Debasement of Psychological Ethics: PHR – Physicians for Human Rights

Mitchell once again uses alleged threats to the homeland to justify America’s
violation of the domestic and international laws against torture. His
statements are consistent with similar arguments offered by the Justice
Department under the Bush administration – that the ‘gloves come off’ and the
rule of law can be abandoned whenever the government deems it appropriate.

“However, for thousands of
years, doctors have taken an oath to use their skills in the interest of doing
good, which can be a check on the potential excesses of government or
authority. Psychologists adhere to an ethics code with an identical mandate to
‘do no harm.’”

“James Mitchell is a living
example of the harm doctors and psychologists do when they deviate from this
ethical obligation. We are living in a time when government policy is
determined less by law or ethical practice, but by the whim and power of the
executive branch. We are living in a time when the President shows his support
for those who torture and commit war crimes. The danger we face as a society
when we acquiesce to hate-driven justifications for abuse and torture is great.
We lose our very humanity and act as a frightened mob.

as a Jew whose parents were tortured – my mother by the Nazis and my father by
the Soviets – I know how easy it is for governments to use fear and rage to
justify cruelty and abuse. The only protection we have in such times is for
citizens and professionals to refuse to violate human rights and their own ethical
standards. It is time for every health professional and every citizen to speak
out in response to James Mitchell’s justifications for torture.”

simply can be no justification for torture. Physicians for Human Rights has
documented the slippery slope doctors and psychologists go down once the first
torture protocol is accepted. Hundreds of detainees were tortured and no useful
information was garnered from the effort. But the United States became a more
brutal country and our people have become more willing to accept government-approved
atrocity. Overruling the laws against torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading
treatment threatens the character of our nation and the rule of law – not only
for detainees but for all of us.”

Dr. Reisner Bio:

Dr. Steven Reisner, a
clinical psychologist and political activist, co-founded the Coalition for an
Ethical Psychology. The Coalition has been in the forefront of efforts to
change the ethics policy of the American Psychological Association, making it
clearly a violation of its ethics code for psychologists to be present at sites
that systematically violate international human rights law or to participate in
national security interrogations. Dr. Reisner has been a consultant on issues
of trauma, torture, political violence, disaster, and resilience for the United
Nations, the International Criminal Court, the Council of Europe, and other
international organizations. He is the creator and host of MADNESS: The
Podcast, which works to bring psychology back to its primary position of serving
the people rather than serving either the government or capitalism. Dr. Reisner
has published in and interviewed for the nation’s leading news outlets and has
been on the teaching faculty of the clinical psychology program at Columbia
University, the international trauma studies program at New York University,
the NYU Medical School, the Psychoanalytic Association of New York, and the
Women’s Therapy Center Institute. Dr.
Reisner is a psychological ethics advisor to PHR and was a co-author on the PHR
Experiments in Torture.[14]

Additional resources related to the U.S. torture program and health professionals’ participation:

Break Them Down: Systematic Use of
Psychological Torture by U.S. Forces

As evidence of U.S. national security interrogation practices
emerged, it became clear that psychologically abusive methods of interrogation
were at the core of U.S. intelligence gathering. “Break Them
Down,” published by PHR in May 2005, was the first comprehensive review of
the use of psychological torture by U.S. forces, examining the devastating
health consequences of psychological coercion and explaining how a regime of
psychological torture was put into place in the U.S. “war on terror”.

Leave No Marks: Enhanced Interrogation
Techniques and the Risk of Criminality

This landmark report for the first time revealed and documented
medical evidence confirming the first-hand accounts of the excruciating pain
and continued suffering of men who, never charged with any crime, endured
torture at U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay.
PHR-mobilized health professionals conducted intensive clinical evaluations of
the men, documenting practices used to bring about long-lasting pain, terror,
humiliation, and shame. The report demonstrated that the authorization of these
techniques, whether practiced alone or in combination, may constitute torture
and/or cruel and inhuman treatment, and may place interrogators at serious
legal risk of prosecution for war crimes and other violations.

Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human
Subject Research and Experimentation in the “Enhanced” Interrogation Program

PHR’s 2010 publication, “Experiments in Torture,” is the
first report to reveal evidence indicating that U.S. military and intelligence
medical personnel allegedly engaged in illegal experimentation on prisoners
captured after 9/11, in addition to the previously disclosed crime of
torture. Those experiments observed and analyzed the physical and
psychological impact on detainees of the use of “enhanced interrogation

Doing Harm: Health Professionals’ Central Role
in the CIA Torture Program

On December 9, 2014, the U.S. Senate Select Committee on
Intelligence released the executive summary, findings, and conclusions of its
6,700-page report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. This
detailed review 
[19]of the 500-page executive summary analyzes
evidence of medical complicity in torture and shows how health professionals
who participated in the CIA torture program violated core ethical principles
common to all healing professions.

Truth Matters: Accountability for CIA
Psychological Torture

The Senate torture report documents the abuses that followed the
development of a comprehensive program of detainee torture by CIA personnel
with the help of psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. This
briefing paper
[21], based on the Senate torture report, analyzes the operational
goal of Mitchell and Jessen and its effect in destroying human beings using
methods and practices long recognized as torture.

Nuremberg Betrayed: Human Experimentation and
the CIA Torture Program

Based on an analysis of thousands of pages of documents and years
of research, PHR shows that the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program constituted an
illegal, unethical regime of experimental research on unwilling human
subjects. In this
[23] PHR researchers show that CIA contract psychologists James
Mitchell and Bruce Jessen created a research program in which health
professionals designed and applied torture techniques and collected data on
torture’s effects. This constitutes one of the gravest breaches of medical
ethics by U.S. health personnel since the Nuremberg Code was developed in the
wake of Nazi medical atrocities committed during World War Two.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.[24]

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