Dr. Helen

"Overemphasize political correctness, and we will be standing on the moral high ground, looking down into a smoking hole that used to be several city blocks."

I am reading a fascinating book by clinical psychologist James Mitchell entitled Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America. Mitchell was one of the psychologists who worked with the CIA to implement “enhanced interrogation techniques”–which included waterboarding:

In Enhanced Interrogation, Mitchell now offers a first-person account of the EIT program, providing a contribution to our historical understanding of one of the most controversial elements of America’s ongoing war on terror. Readers will follow him inside the secretive “black sites” and cells of terrorists and terror suspects where he personally applied enhanced interrogation techniques. Mitchell personally questioned thirteen of the most senior high-value detainees in U.S. custody, including Abu Zubaydah; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the amir or “commander” of the USS Cole bombing; and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terror attacks–obtaining information that he maintains remains essential to winning the war against al-Qa’ida and informing our strategy to defeat ISIS and all of radical Islam.

From the interrogation program’s earliest moments to its darkest hours, Mitchell also lifts the curtain on its immediate effects, the controversy surrounding its methods, and its downfall. He shares his view that EIT, when applied correctly, were useful in drawing detainees to cooperate, and that, when applied incorrectly, they were counter-productive. He also chronicles what it is like to undertake a several-years-long critical mission at the request of the government only to be hounded for nearly a decade afterward by congressional investigations and Justice Department prosecutors.

Gripping in its detail and deeply illuminating, Enhanced Interrogation argues that it is necessary for America to take strong measures to defend itself from its enemies and that the country is less safe now without them than it was before 9/11.

Mitchell recently wrote a piece for the WSJ in which he said, “Sorry, Mad Dog, Waterboarding Works”:

I respect Gen. Mattis, but he has never employed enhanced-interrogation techniques. I have….
Waterboarding was never the first, nor the best, choice for most detainees. We started out with the “tea and sympathy” approach and only escalated to harsher methods when it became clear that the detainee held vital information that might save innocent lives and was determined not to provide it. We quickly moved away from enhanced interrogations as soon as the detainee showed even a little cooperation.

The people I dealt with were not run-of-the-mill battlefield detainees, but hardened terrorists. Men like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. These people were hellbent on bringing about further devastation.

I would ask Gen. Mattis this: Imagine being captured by America’s enemies. Would you give up important secrets that could get fellow Americans captured or killed in exchange for a Michelob and a pack of Marlboros?…

Some in government have argued that for the U.S. to maintain the moral high ground, all harsh interrogation tactics should remain illegal, as they have been since the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2016 was enacted…

Yet in a ticking-time-bomb scenario, should CIA officers just do whatever is necessary and hope for clemency in the trial that would follow? As someone who was thrown under the bus by the Obama Justice Department, I believe it is unreasonable to expect CIA officers to put their lives at risk to protect a government that will not do its best to protect them in return. Overemphasize political correctness, and we will be standing on the moral high ground, looking down into a smoking hole that used to be several city blocks.

I have to say that I am surprised–at how brave this psychologist is, and how unabashedly he describes what happened to him politically. Good for him for writing this book to let the American people hear the truth about EIT and make up their own minds about how the US deals with terrorists.