Texas Board Probing Psychologist who used “Harsh Techniques” against Terror Suspects for CIA

Associated Press | January 11, 2011

DALLAS — The Texas agency that licenses psychologists is pressing forward with an investigation that could lead it to discipline one of the architects of the Central Intelligence Agency's post-Sept. 11 interrogation methods.

The Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists has scheduled a Feb. 8 hearing to consider the case of Jim Mitchell, who former U.S. intelligence officers say was involved in waterboarding two suspected terror suspects in overseas prisons. Board records show that Mitchell is licensed in Texas but resides in Florida.

A document obtained by The Associated Press shows that an informal settlement conference has been scheduled to consider a complaint that was brought against Mitchell in June. One of the complainants is the civilian attorney for Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida facilitator who was waterboarded by Mitchell and his partner Bruce Jessen, according to former U.S. intelligence officials.

Sherry Lee, the board's executive director, said Tuesday she can't comment on ongoing inquiries. A woman who answered the phone listed by the board for Mitchell also declined to comment.

The complaint against Mitchell contends that he tortured prisoners in U.S. custody and details how he dealt with Abu Zubaydah, who was badly wounded after his 2002 capture in Pakistan. Former intelligence officials say he was taken to a CIA black site in Thailand.

According to the document, Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times in August 2002, sometimes as much as three times per session. The complaint claims Mitchell "sullied his profession" by violating its basic standards of conduct.

The American Psychological Association has submitted a letter to the board stating that the allegations against Mitchell are unique in "the scope of misperception and harm" they have caused the public's understanding of the profession.

"Based on the public record as we know it, James Mitchell has forfeited his right to be a licensed psychologist in Texas, and we expect that the board will see it the same way," said Joseph Margulies, Abu Zubaydah's civilian lawyer.

Dicky Grigg, an Austin attorney whose name also appears on the complaint, said he believes the only thing that will be in dispute is whether the board will accept an explanation that Mitchell acted in the name of national security.

"I don't think he can get up there and say there was nothing wrong with his conduct," said Grigg, who represented three terror suspects imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

Grigg said Texas is the only state in which Mitchell is known to be licensed, although there's no evidence he has practiced in the state.

Board policy dictates that a settlement conference be held when probable cause of a violation exists. The proceeding, closed to the public, allows both a complainant and an accused party to state their cases in front of three members of the board.

The panel can then impose sanctions, which can range from a reprimand to forfeiture of a license. If the accused doesn't agree, the matter goes before an administrative law judge.


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