Psychologist who helped devise CIA interrogation program lost Mormon role

December 12, 2014
(A group of Mormon women walk to Temple Square in an attempt to get tickets to the priesthood meeting at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints semi-annual gathering known as general conference in Salt Lake City, Utah April 5, 2014. The group, who want ecclesiastical equality with men, seeked admittance to a male-only session of the faith's spring conference on Saturday, as they promote the ordination of women into the lay priesthood of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)

(A group of Mormon women walk to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah April 5, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart)

One of the chief architects of the CIA’s harsh interrogation program said on Thursday he had to quit as leader of his Mormon church in 2012 amid controversy about his role in fighting terrorism.

No senior policymakers or CIA officials have been charged for the maltreatment of suspects, but at least for former Air Force psychologist Bruce Jessen there has been a repercussion at a local level for his part in the so-called “war on terror.”

Jessen resigned as bishop of a Mormon congregation in Spokane, Washington after civil liberties and human rights activists criticized his professional past in the local newspaper.

“I just felt it would be unfair for me to bring that controversy to a lot of other people, so I decided to step down,” Jessen told Reuters outside his home south of Spokane.

The CIA paid $80 million to a company run by Jessen and another former Air Force psychologist, James Mitchell, according to a U.S. Senate report released this week. The report said the pair recommended waterboarding, slaps to the face and mock burial for prisoners suspected of being terrorists.

The pair are referred to by pseudonyms in the report but intelligence sources have identified them by name. Mitchell said earlier this week the report was a “bunch of hooey.” Jessen said a nondisclosure agreement prevented him from commenting.

“It’s a difficult position to be in,” he said. “You want to set the record straight.” He accused the media of publishing “distortions” about CIA interrogation methods.

Jessen, 65, had only spent a week in the role as head of his 300-member Spokane congregation when he stepped down in October, 2012.

“This was due to concerns expressed about his past work related to interrogation techniques,” said Eric Hawkins, a national spokesman in Salt Lake City for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon faith is formally known.

The position of bishop is unpaid and part-time but well-respected in the Mormon world.

“Local leaders met with Jessen and together determined that it would be difficult for him to serve as an effective leader in that position,” Hawkins said.

A bishop normally serves three to six years, he added. Jessen remains a member of the same congregation.

The American Psychological Association – to which Jessen and Mitchell do not belong and are thus not subject to discipline – has called for the pair to be held accountable. But U.S. officials say there will be no criminal charges.

via Psychologist who helped devise CIA interrogation program lost Mormon role | Reuters.

2 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Just so everyone is clear about this; the Mormon Church appoints Bishops. They are not elected. They don’t run for office. The local congregation doesn’t appoint them. Bishops are appointed by the “prophets, seers, and revelators” in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bishops are also *thoroughly* vetted before their appointments.

So this man was “called” as Bishop by LDS Church leaders who were fully aware of his involvement in torture. Yet they appointed him anyway.

And he’d still be the Bishop if not for civil liberties and human rights activists. The Mormon Church didn’t ask him to step down. They’re just fine with torturers serving as Bishops.

Posted by DandyStryker | Report as abusive

“the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon faith is formally known.”

Maybe I’m misreading this sentence, but it appears to say that we’ve changed our name. The name “Mormon” is a nickname given to our church by those outside our faith. It has become so common, that we no longer fight it; but that is not the name of our church.

We have been and always will be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also please note that the word “The” is part of our name and thus capitalized).

Sorry to be a stickler, but we worship Jesus Christ, not Mormon. Thus we are The Church of Jesus Christ.

Finally, as to the substance, it’s always funny when the leftists protest members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints every chance they get, but ignore the atrocities of Islam. I also noticed that this website doesn’t have a story on The first female Episcopal bishop in Maryland, Heather Elizabeth Cook. She hit and killed a bicyclist, then fled the scene. But the word “Mormon” isn’t in that story.

Posted by fatheroffour | Report as abusive