It was a little more than six months after the 9/11 attacks when Dr. James E. Mitchell received a phone call from the chief of department that housed the CIA’s operational psychologists. The request to come to the CIA headquarters in Langley wasn’t seemingly out of place, Dr. Mitchell was already an established consultant with the agency, with years of experience in the Air Force Special Operations unit. But there was an urgency to the request, followed up by a statement “You should be ready to leave the country immediately after the meetings.” Little did he know at the time, Abu Zubaydah, a prominent Al Qaeda operative, was recently captured alive during a raid in Pakistan.
Abu Zubaydah not only studied resistance to interrogation techniques, but also taught it in his Al-Qaeda training camp. Because Mitchell and a colleague had written a report about concerns that terrorists were applying resistance to interrogation techniques, he was invited to provide his input as a CIA operational psychiatrist. After a briefing and impromptu contract agreement, Dr. Mitchell was on his way to a secret CIA black site where Abu Zubaydah, the highest ranking Al-Qaida leader caught up till that point, was being held. Over the course of the broader “War on Terrorism,” Dr. Mitchell would be called up to oversee and interrogate several other high value detainees, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the USS Cole attack commander and the Al Qaeda 9/11 planner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM).
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