James Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen, the ex-military psychologists identified as primary architects of the CIA’s "enhanced interrogations techniques" torture program, apparently did not spend all their time on the battlefield. As the Bush administration-approved coercive interrogation techniques spread from Guantanamo and Afghanistan to the new war in Iraq, Mitchell and Jessen were cashing in on their new-found influence.
According to a news blurb in October 2003, from conservative columnist John McCaslin, Mitchell and Jessen, along with fellow survival instructor David Dose (of whose Fort Sherman Academy in Idaho, more in a minute), were speakers at a "’Homeland Security Training Seminar,’ billed as an ‘intense three-day experiential training seminar. . . for avoiding and surviving hostage detention.’" The hoity-toity affair, for which federal and state officials were to receive a governmental per diem, was held at the Ritz Carlton resort on Maui.
The seminar was organized by Randall Spivey’s Spokane-based company, RS Consulting. Spivey is a former hostage training instructor for the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape, or SERE program, as well as chief of the Policy and Oversight Division at SERE’s parent organization, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA). But perhaps most notoriously, Mr. Spivey was a principle member of Mitchell, Jessen and Associates. The relationship may have been even closer, as according to a Google search, both MJA and RS Consulting appear to have shared the same telephone number (see here and here).
How nice for Mr. Spivey to arrange a tony gig like this for his buddies from MJA. He also thought to invite along another friend, David Dose. Dose is another survival training instructor (and former "Defense Department consultant") who operates a private training firm in northern Idaho, Fort Sherman Academy (FSA). According to its website, FSA claims 50+ employees, who have worked in 27 different countries serving "clientele in multiple environments," including government, military, law enforcement, church/Mission groups, and NGOs and Corporations. Spivey worked as Dose’s "security adviser" from 2002-04, the same period he was involved in helping institute the reverse-engineered SERE program as the torture program of choice for U.S. interrogators.
The thing about these contracting agencies is, as I pointed out in a recent article, they never seem to be far from allegations of corruption. According to an article at The Spokesman-Review in September 2003, Dose’s first incarnation of the FSA, called the Fort Sherman Institute (FSI), begun in 2001, was called out for special criticism for by the Faculty Assembly at North Idaho College (NIC). FSI had been attached to NIC’s Workforce Training Center to provide "hostage survival training to groups including businesses, the military, police officers, missionaries and overseas travelers." But questions arose as to where all the money was going.
North Idaho College’s spending on its antiterrorism school is "excessive and lacked proper scrutiny," the Faculty Assembly said in a resolution Thursday.
Since fall 2001, NIC has spent about $650,000 from its general and reserve funds on the Fort Sherman Institute, which some say was supposed to be self-supporting….
The faculty questioned the college’s spending on Fort Sherman and said they "cannot support any future major drains on the general and reserve funds of NIC to maintain the Institute."
Mr. Dose denied any financial improprieties. But in the end, Fort Sherman Institute and NIC severed their ties with each other, and FSI reconstituted as the private Fort Sherman Academy. It uniquely seems to offer "faith-based" survival training, as this description from its website demonstrates:
B level CAPTIVE SAINT #200 – 2 days of instruction, led by a instructor with slides and video. Course is for seasoned and novice travelers seeking to improve their personal, team and family security while traveling or working abroad. Course covers topics like: Covers travel security, code of conduct, crime survival, hostage survival, dealing with unfriendly govt. detention and questioning, counter-surveillance, rescue behaviors, minimizing exploitation and basic crisis policy – all from a faith-based perspective.
What "code of conduct" has to do with "personal, team and family security" is beyond me, as it refers to behavior of military personnel captured by enemy forces.
In any case, FSA is serious about its religious side. The only link on their "Links" page is to "Concerned Christians for Afghanistan." FSA’s "vision" statement declares:
Fort Sherman Academy exists to assist Mission organizations and Sending Churches in fulfilling the Great Commission throughout the world by providing cutting-edge training for short and long-term personnel, supporting them as they continue to go where they are called to serve, even in an ever-declining world.
Now this is a vision to contemplate, as Spivey and friends Mitchell, Jessen, and Dose may have had reason to do from their luxury hotel rooms at Maui’s premier resort. One wonders if they had time to check in with Hawaiian Senator Daniel Inoyue, or Patrick DeLeon, a psychologist and one of Inouyue’s administrative assistants.
I ask because Inouye plays a major role in an article published on June 17 by Bryant Welch, former Executive Director of the American Psychological Association Practice Directorate, and Chair of their Board of Professional Affairs, which details the degeneration of the APA into a mere instrument of Defense Department whims, supplying it with interrogators, when needed, and facilitating coordination between APA and the Department of Defense.
Bryant tracks the APA’s military connections to the office of Sen. Inoyue (D-Hawaii), who serves as chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which "covers not only all of the armed forces but the CIA as well." Bryant tracks how this powerful senator wielded his power on behalf of the military psychologists. He also describes other major connections between APA and the military, as in the special connection between The Human Resource Research Organization (HumRRO) and top APA officials. I’ll have more to say about HumRRO in a future article, but suffice it to say that HumRRO was a top contractor for government research into sensory deprivation over forty years ago. Consider this 1962 study by three HumRRO psychologists (emphasis added):
Experiments were designed to appraise the potency of a limited sensory and social environment. Soldier volunteers were confined for a period of four days in dark quiet cubicles which were otherwise physically comfortable. The dearth of sensory experience within the cubicle contrasted markedly with the normal sensory and social experiences of the control group subject during the same period of time. After comparing the experiences and behaviors of cubicle and control group subjects, it was concluded that dark quiet isolation can be a formidable experience. The cubicle subject evidenced feelings of boredom, restlessness, anger, stress, anxiety, disorientation and vague physical symptoms that were only rarely reported by his control group counterpart.
U.S. torturers, psychologists, greed and corruption, Maui junkets, "war on terror," U.S. Senators, sensory deprivation. . . . As Robert Hunter famously said, "Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it’s been." The need for accountability over U.S. torture policies is more pressing than ever.
A Plug: Don’t forget to join me in the Book Salon this Saturday, 5-7pm EDT, when our guest will be Dr. Steven Miles, whose book Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror, is considered a landmark study in the various ways psychologists, doctors, and top medical officials colluded with the torture program unleashed by the U.S. government. See you there.