One of the two military psychologists who created the “enhanced” interrogation techniques used by the CIA in the years after 9/11 testified earlier this year that CIA officials called them “pussies” when they wanted to stop waterboarding detainees, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The two psychologists, Drs. John Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, are currently being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of some of the former detainees.
“‘You guys have lost your spine.’ I think the word that was actually used is that you guys are pussies. There was going to be another attack in America and the blood of dead civilians are going to be on your hands,” Mitchell said CIA officials told him and Jessen when they asked to stop waterboarding detainees.
Thirteen of the interrogation techniques developed by the two psychologists were approved by the Justice Department in 2002 and 2005. In 2014, the Senate Intelligence Commitee released a report criticizing the interrogation program as “brutal” and “deeply flawed” and saying that many of the techniques constituted torture.
Many human rights groups have also criticized the interrogation program as torture, arguing that it violated Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits the torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners of war. The Bush administration argued, at the time, that the detainees were not technically prisoners of war.
Jessen and Mitchell seem to have taken different stances on the program in recent years, the Times said. Mitchell has publicly defended the program, while Jessen “remained silent.”
But now, as defendants under deposition, the two men claim to have had reservations about the methods, even saying that they wanted to stop the use of waterboarding at one point.
Jessen said in the deposition that, when they did, “[CIA officials] kept telling me every day a nuclear bomb was going to be exploded in the United States and that because I had told them to stop, I had lost my nerve and it was going to be my fault if I didn’t continue.”
Despite devising and training others to carry out the interrogation techniques, and their business getting paid $81 million to do so, Jessen and Mitchell also both claim they were not the architects of the program, the Times said.
The trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 5.