WASHINGTON - The well-paid psychologists had a plan and a contract to make terrorists talk.
And when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed resisted, a CIA officer confided in 2003 that one of the psychologists promised he was "going to go to school on this guy," according to a new Senate Intelligence Committee report.
Private contractors James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen then unleashed the harsh interrogation techniques they had helped design.
Coercive interrogation tools such as waterboarding, slapping and sleep deprivation proved lucrative to Mitchell and Jessen even as they triggered alarms among intelligence professionals over the brutal handling of detainees like the suspected mastermind of 9/11, the report shows.
"Although these guys believe that their way is the only way, there should be an effort to define roles and responsibilities before their arrogance and narcissism evolve into unproductive conflict in the field," a CIA medical professional warned in a June 16, 2003, e-mail.
The two psychologists, who collected millions of dollars from the CIA, are among the few identifiable major players whose actions are spotlighted in the report made public Tuesday. That could put them at the center of a growing call for legal consequences.
"If the allegations are true, their behavior was a clear violation of the profession's ethical standards, clear violations of human rights, and probably violations of U.S. and international laws," Rhea Farberman, the spokeswoman for the American Psychological Association, said in an interview Wednesday. "They should be held accountable."
The resulting fallout from the now-defunct program set up to detain and interrogate terror suspects overseas already has proven costly to taxpayers, as the CIA remains on the hook for covering legal expenses for the men through 2021.
Mitchell did not return calls but has denied responsibility for CIA abuses. Jessen could not be reached for comment.
"What I would love the American people to know is that the way the Senate Democrats on that committee described the credentials and background of the two psychologists is just factually, demonstrably incorrect," Mitchell told the Associated Press before declining to detail the inaccuracies, citing a secrecy agreement with the CIA.
According to the Senate panel's report, the CIA held at least 119 people in secret overseas prisons - some of whom turned out to be innocent - and subjected many to gruesome interrogations that didn't lead to any high-level terrorists, including Osama bin Laden.