CIA Renewed Contract With Psychologists Who Endorsed Waterboarding Weeks After Obama Took Office Before Firing Them

07/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Amid the headlines about CIA director Leon Panetta's comments on Dick Cheney's motivations for his criticism of Obama, a much-bigger revelation was tucked into Jane Mayer's new story in the New Yorker.

Weeks after Obama took office, the CIA extended its contract with the former military psychologists who have been called the architects of waterboarding before eventually firing them:

In April, Panetta fired all the C.I.A.'s contract interrogators, including the former military psychologists who appear to have designed the most brutal interrogation techniques: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. The two men, who ran a consulting company, Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, had recommended that interrogators apply to detainees theories of "learned helplessness" that were based on experiments with abused dogs. The firm's principals reportedly billed the agency a thousand dollars a day for their services. "We saved some money in the deal, too!" Panetta said. (Remarkably, a month after Obama took office the C.I.A. had signed a fresh contract with the firm.)

James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were paid $1,000 a day by the agency to oversee harsh interrogation techniques used on terror suspects, reported ABC News.

"The whole intense interrogation concept that we hear about, is essentially their concepts," according to Col. Steven Kleinman, an Air Force interrogator.

Mitchell and Jessen appear to have closed down their business, which was located in Spokane, Washington.

Mayer also reports that "most of the individuals who managed the secret interrogation program have since left the agency" except for CIA Deputy Director Stephen R. Kappes.

Kappes was previously the deputy director for operations from 2002 to 2004, where he was responsible for the counterterrorism division that directed the interrogation program.