A lesser-known local connection emerged again this past week when national media outlets reported that psychologists Jim Mitchell andBruce Jessen participated directly in waterboarding terror suspects. Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, the men’s Spokane-based consulting firm, was previously known only as the architects of the CIA’s torture program.
The Portland connection? Joseph Matarazzo, professor emeritus of behavioral neuroscience at Oregon Health & Science University, has acknowledged he was on the five-member board of Mitchell, Jessen & Associates at the time the torture program was underway.
Washington state public records indicate Matarazzo has left the board since the firm’s role in the torture program was revealed in 2007. Back then, Matarazzo was quoted as saying he had “no knowledge of anyone who has been involved in such torture or interrogation.”
Since it now appears Matarazzo—who owned 1 percent of the firm—had two partners who practiced waterboarding, we wanted his reaction to the latest revelations about their alleged hands-on involvement in the program.
Matarazzo tells WW he was not an active member of the company, nor was he involved in its security work. He says he left the company in 2009 and has had only sporadic contact with Mitchell and Jessen since then.
Matarazzo says Mitchell and Jessen have told him they can’t discuss the allegations with anyone, including Matarazzo. But Matarazzo, 85, says he does not believe reports they were personally involved in waterboarding.
“It would surprise me as much as if my own wife were accused of it,” says Matarazzo.
Matarazzo believes eventually, the truth will out.
“One day,” he says, “when the Justice Department or whoever else is going to have to testify [on the torture program], it’s going to come out.