December 29, 2010
A recent Associated Press story, “Officials: CIA gave Waterboarders $5M Legal Shield” reports that the CIA agreed to pay at least $5 million in legal fees for two psychologists who created the CIA’s waterboarding and interrogation program. The psychologists, Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, personally conducted waterboarding sessions inside CIA-run secret prisons. But to do the job, the CIA had to promise the pair of private contractors that they would cover at least $5 million in legal fees if there was ever a legal inquiry over the interrogation techniques. This secret deal was even more generous than the protections the CIA provides its own employees, who had to cover half of their insurance premiums after the September 11 attacks.
According to the report, normally, CIA officers buy insurance to cover possible attorney fees. It costs about $300 a year for $1 million in coverage. Today, the CIA pays the premiums for most officers, but at the height of the war on terrorism, officers had to pay half. The Mitchell and Jessen agreement, known as an “indemnity promise” was structured differently. Unlike CIA officers, whose identities are classified, Mitchell and Jessen were public citizens who received some of the earliest scrutiny by reporters and lawmakers. The two men wanted more protection. The legal bills would be paid directly from CIA accounts, according to sources.