Thursday, April 30, 2009

Outing CIA Agents

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ABC News tonight had a story on Bruce Jessen and Jim Mitchell, the two psychologists who helped design the CIA waterboarding program.

It seems that with the release of the torture memos there is now a new focus on these two. ABC lurked outside their office, then followed them around with cameras but both declined comment, citing confidentiality agreements with the CIA.

So what was the focus of the story? I'm still trying to figure it out. But here's a quote that helps:

"It's clear that these psychologists had an important role in developing what became the CIA's torture program," said Jameel Jaffer, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Does Jaffer think that somebody should take legal action here? Is he going to try to hold them responsible for doing a job they were hired as private contractors to do? Here's more:

"But it turns out neither Mitchell nor Jessen had any experience in conducting actual interrogations before the CIA hired them.

"'They went to two individuals who had no interrogation experience,' said Col. Kleinman. 'They are not interrogators.' The new documents show the CIA later came to learn that the two psychologists' waterboarding 'expertise' was probably 'misrepresented' and thus, there was no reason to believe it was 'medically safe' or effective."

They "misrepresented" their expertise? Is THAT the point of the story?

Then, finally, there's this:

"A federal judge in New York is currently considering whether or not to make public the written logs of the interrogation sessions.

"The tapes were destroyed by the CIA, but the written logs still exist, although the CIA is fighting their release. "

I'm not surprised the CIA is fighting their release; I think we've given out enough information already.

Vanity Fair did a hit piece on Mitchell and Jessen in June 2007:

"Two psychologists in particular played a central role: James Elmer Mitchell, who was attached to the C.I.A. team that eventually arrived in Thailand, and his colleague Bruce Jessen. Neither served on the task force or are A.P.A. members. Both worked in a classified military training program known as sere—for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape—which trains soldiers to endure captivity in enemy hands. Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the tactics inflicted on sere trainees for use on detainees in the global war on terror, according to psychologists and others with direct knowledge of their activities. The C.I.A. put them in charge of training interrogators in the brutal techniques, including 'waterboarding,' at its network of 'black sites.' In a statement, Mitchell and Jessen said, "'We are proud of the work we have done for our country.'"

The whole thing has rather a witch hunt feel to it and in a way reminds me of the outing of Valerie Plame. While these guys weren't necessarily agents or spies, they were attached to the CIA and worked an extremely sensitive operation. We might as well paint a target on their backs in case anybody wants to get revenge. ABC News splashed their faces all over the news and on their website.

I'm not sure what would be gained at this point by dragging them further into the spotlight. The release of the torture memos was bad enough without continuing to dump more information into the hands of our enemies.

Update: Allahpundit has now put this up on Hot Air:

This one's a closer call than when the Times outed KSM's chief interrogator against Michael Hayden’s wishes. That was really a story about America’s counterterror apparatus after 9/11; the interrogator was a minor character, which made the outing gratuitous. ABC’s piece is about how these two guys masterminded the CIA’s program — while allegedly not really knowing what they were doing. Can you break a story like that, affecting national policy on a subject of public interest, without saying specifically who you’re talking about?

Memeorandum has other blog links on this as well.

From Weekly Standard:
"ABC's conduct here, exposing two men who will now become obvious targets for terrorists and left-wing extremists, is deplorable. Will the Obama administration investigate who leaked their identities? Or is it now open-season on Americans who were only doing what their government asked of them in order to protect their country from attack?"

Torture Memo Release = Big Mistake

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Anonymous said...

they can release these names but cannot release the names of who authorized Air Force One to fly over NY, someone had to sign the flight manifest and sign off a clearance on restricted airspace. You're right this is a witch hunt.

G. R. said...

This is insanity. Does anyone remember the left going nuts and accusing the Bush Administration of releasing the name of CIA pseudo-agent Valerie Plame? They wanted the heads of everyone on the Bush Administration on a platter.
So, when they couldn't prove their claim, they got Scooter Libby on a perjury charge. You know perjury like, "I didn't have sex with that woman..."