This July Vanity Fair article outlines the use of pseudo-psychiatric techniques and the reverse engineering of the military’s SERE program to use as tools in taking apart the psyche of detainees and suspected terrorists. The currently used methods of waterboarding and other forms of duress were determined permissible on the basis of a memo written (at least in part) by Jay Bybee, a mormon judge now sitting on the Ninth Circuit. The memo’s introduction read (in part):
For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture under Section 2340 [that section of the U.S. Code implementing the UN Convention Against Torture]… physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death…it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.
Unfortunately, not only did a mormon help provide the legal underpinnings of Abu Ghraib and CIA black site prisons, mormons also developed the very interrogation techniques used on those held in these locations.
The VF article describes the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, an Al-Queda soldier, at a safe house in Thailand:
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. [American Psychological Association] members… 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.”
And the best part:
Mitchell and Jessen’s methods were so controversial that, among colleagues, the reaction to their names alone became a litmus test of one’s attitude toward coercion and human rights. Their critics called them the “Mormon mafia” (a reference to their shared religion) and the “poster boys” (referring to the F.B.I.’s “most wanted” posters, which are where some thought their activities would land them).
Others have written their feelings on this point. Some claim that the Bloggernacle represents, in some small measure, the face of Mormonism to the world, but far more people will know of Mitchell, Jessen and Bybee than will ever hear of BCC.
Another odd thing to consider: somewhere, these men are in a ward — maybe yours. From what I can gather, they either live on the East Coast or in the Spokane, WA area. Perhaps they teach in the Primary, or are on the High Council. We may break the Sacrament together some day. The juxtaposition of ruthless interrogators sitting in the pew next to me boggles my mind, and I don’t quite know what to make of it all.