Friday, December 19, 2014

Face to face with Spokane's CIA torture architect

Posted By on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 at 2:38 PM

click to enlarge Face to face with Spokane's CIA torture architect
Jacob Jones
Arches and pillars line Bruce Jessen's home south of Spokane. The former Air Force psychologist helped design the CIA's controversial interrogation program.

A red tractor idles in the courtyard of Dr. Bruce Jessen’s massive $1.2 million home south of Spokane. Pillars and stone arches line the entryways. Red ceramic tiles cover the roof of the estate. When the former Fairchild Air Force Base psychologist and now-infamous architect of the CIA’s brutal interrogation program steps out, he freezes for a moment before realizing I am just a reporter. He’s a little on edge.

“There’s a lot going on,” he tells me last week. “It’s a difficult position to be in.”

Jessen explains nondisclosure agreements prohibit him from discussing the newly released CIA torture report, despite what he called “distortions” reported in the press. Polite, but clearly upset, Jessen notes he has a “No Trespassing” sign near the end of his driveway. As he heads toward the tractor, he adds an ominous observation.

“You know, they didn’t prosecute Zimmerman,” he says.

In hindsight, this seems a clear reference to the legality of deadly force in so called “stand your ground” situations. So that’s where his mind went. At the time, I thought he was alluding to something in the new CIA report that I was not familiar with. His comment confused me, but did not scare me.

For the record: Reporters hate cold-knocking on someone’s door. But Jessen had rejected calls from all across the country, so it was a last resort. When I happen to catch him taking out the trash, he acknowledges he would like to “set the record straight,” but can’t. While his colleague Dr. James Mitchell has contradicted aspects of the report, Jessen says Mitchell is a smarter, better public speaker. The pair's company reportedly received more than $80 million for its work at the CIA. Jessen still declines to comment further.

“There’s nothing more I can say,” he says.

Jessen then shakes my hand to end the conversation. I wish him a merry Christmas, but ask once more if there was anything he would like to add. He suggests I leave while we are still on “amiable terms.” Then he closes the door of the tractor cab and puts the machine in gear.

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About The Author

Jacob Jones

Staff writer Jacob Jones covers criminal justice, natural resources, military issues and organized labor for the Inlander.