His name is Dr. James Mitchell, and he's a retired Air Force psychologist. When we first see him rowing his way across the alligator-infested Myakka River State Park in Central Florida, he has the outward appearance of a rugged outdoorsman at peace with himself in his natural environment. He exudes an effortless air of intelligence, experience and accomplishment. Little would anyone realize that Mr. Mitchell is a key figure at the center of one of the most prominent hot-button issues facing United States today.
He is rumored to be the architect of the enhanced interrogation (EIT) program for the CIA, and may have even been present during the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11th attacks. In these 13 years following 9/11, Mr. Mitchell has existed largely in shadow, but he emerges to tell his story for the first time in this short documentary from VICE News. His insights expose the tremulous moments when an American tragedy may have compromised the basic principals for which this country stands.
How far should you be willing to go to secure actionable intelligence from those who are motivated solely by the crippling of your country? The CIA response to that question appears unequivocal as detailed in the EIT program guidelines thought to be devised by Mr. Mitchell. The program outlines a series of ten tactics for the interrogation of high value Al Qaeda targets, including wall standing, sleep deprivation, cramped confinement and, most controversially, waterboarding.
Mr. Mitchell offers no admission as to his personal involvement in these matters. "I think it's a policy decision," he proclaims. "I don't have a vested interest in any form of interrogation." Surprisingly, in spite of these assertions, Mr. Mitchell welcomes an open debate on the effectiveness of these enhanced interrogation protocols.
The Architect gives voice not only to Mr. Mitchell's unique perspective, but to the various human rights advocates and watchdog groups who have long been vocal in their opposition of these tactics. Their activism has embedded itself within the global dialogue concerning the morality of the interrogation techniques which many consider to be borderline barbaric. Skillfully guided by VICE reporter Kaj Larsen, The Architect provides an engrossing and open-eyed probe into the culture of government-sanctioned torture; the full ramifications of which might only be knowable through the hindsight of history.