CIA Paid Torture Teachers More Than $80 Million

The logo of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is shown in the lobby of the CIA headquarters

The CIA contractors who helped develop and operate the “enhanced interrogation techniques” that the agency used on terror suspects, including waterboarding, were paid more than $80 million, according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s interrogation program released Tuesday.

The contract was for more than $180 million, but the contractors had only received $81 million when their contract was terminated in 2009.

Although the committee did not identify the contractors, NBC News has previously identified them as Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, a Spokane, Washington, company run by two psychologists, Dr. John “Bruce” Jessen and Dr. James Mitchell, who had both previously worked with the U.S. Air Force.

The report states that when they were hired the two did not have “specialized knowledge of al Qaeda, a background in counterterrorism or any relevant cultural or linguistic experience.”

The CIA made first contact with the psychologists in April 2002, not long after the agency had captured its first major al Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah.

“Interrogation wasn’t a big deal till we got a big deal guy,” said one former intelligence official who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity. “We had reporting from prior to 9-11 as well as afterward that Abu Zubaydah might well know about future operations. So … we get him in our clutches…we figure we might need to do something to find out what he knows.”

In late July 2002 the CIA turned to the psychologists, according to both former intelligence officials and congressional investigators. Jessen was then a senior psychologist at the Defense Department agency that taught special operations forces how to resist and endure torture via so called “SERE” training, or Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape training, at a special “SERE” school. Jessen was sent to the CIA “for several days” to discuss the techniques, according to congressional investigators. Jessen immediately resigned from the Air Force and, along with Mitchell, another recently retired colleague, founded Mitchell, Jessen & Associates.

The business — co-owned by seven individuals, six of whom worked in the SERE program as either employees or contractors — quickly signed a contract with the CIA. In 2006, according to the report, “the value of the CIA’s base contract with the company formed by the psychologists with all options exercised was in excess of $180 million.” The deal initially provided the two principals with $1,000-a-day tax-free retainers.

The Senate report states the contractor “developed the list of enhanced interrogation techniques and personally conducted interrogations of some of the CIA’s most significant detainees using those techniques. The contractors also evaluated whether the detainees’ psychological state allowed for continued use of the techniques, even for some detainees they themselves were interrogating or had..

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