State declines to discipline CIA psychologist despite "thousands of pages of evidence"

February 28, 2011

DALLAS — The Texas agency that licenses and oversees psychologists has dismissed a complaint against a major figure in the CIA's post-Sept. 11 interrogations.

The Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists dismissed the complaint against Jim Mitchell after considering the matter at a meeting Feb. 10, according to documents obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The board said there wasn't enough evidence to prove Mitchell violated its rules. Former U.S. intelligence officials have said he was involved in waterboarding two suspected terror suspects in overseas prisons.

Mitchell, a retired Air Force psychologist, lives in Florida but is licensed to practice in Texas.

The complaint against Mitchell contended he tortured prisoners in U.S. custody, including Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida facilitator who was badly wounded after his 2002 capture in Pakistan. Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times, sometimes as much as three times per interrogation session, according to the complaint.

Sherry Lee, the agency's executive director, said Texas law prohibits the board from disclosing anything about a complaint unless it results in disciplinary action.

Henry Schuelke, an attorney representing Mitchell, said neither he nor his client could comment. He also cited the confidentiality of the proceedings.

The board's ruling was made two days after a hearing closed to the public in which three board members considered the complaint as well as Mitchell's response.

Jim Cox, a San Antonio psychologist who was one of the complainants, said Friday that the board made its decision despite thousands of pages of evidence, including sworn testimony, tying Mitchell to practices that violate professional ethics.

"I don't know what to make of it," Cox said. "The board is empowered to protect citizens from the misdeeds of psychologists. That's their only function. And as far as I can tell, they dropped the ball on this one."

The other complainants were Dicky Grigg, an Austin attorney who represented three terror suspects imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, and Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern University law professor who served as Zubaydah's civilian attorney.

In dismissing the complaint, Texas falls into line with other states that have determined they won't pursue cases against psychologists linked to questionable interrogation methods in the post-Sept. 11 era.

Boards in Ohio and Louisiana have decided not to take action against Larry James, a retired Army psychologist who has been accused of observing abusive interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo without doing anything to stop them. And New York's Office of Professional discipline has declined to pursue an investigation of John Leso, an Army psychologist accused of developing abusive tactics used at Guantanamo.

The Texas case had particular significance because the American Psychological Association wrote a letter to the board saying Mitchell's conduct, as detailed in the complaint and media reports, was "unique in the scope of misperception and harm" it caused the profession.

Representatives of the organization didn't immediately respond to messages from the AP seeking comment on the board's decision.

Source: Danny Robbins, "Texas board won't discipline CIA psychologist," Houston Chronicle, February 25, 2011.


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