In October 2012--three years after the ABC News segment above--the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported Jessen's elevation within the LDS:
Bruce Jessen was proposed by Spokane Stake President James Lee, or "called" in the terminology of the Mormon faith, to be the bishop of Spokane's 6th Ward, approved by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hierarchy in Salt Lake City and presented to the congregation on Sunday. He was unanimously accepted by some 200 in attendance, Lee said.
As a bishop - an unpaid, part-time position that usually lasts several years - Jessen will take confessions and help people with their personal problems, Lee said. "They just try to help people with their lives, marriages or finances," he said.
As it turned out, waterboarding was apparently not an ideal enhanced proselytization technique. As Joanna Brooks
noted in Religion Dispatches
later in October 2012, "Sources have confirmed that Jessen stepped down from the position last Sunday." If LDS wasn't put off by Jessen and Mitchell's past, the APA (the American Psychological Association
), was horrified. Last month, APA announced it "will conduct an independent review into whether it colluded with or supported the government's use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners during the Bush administration."
Meanwhile, one of the principal authors of the Bush administration handbook for Inquisitors isn't sitting in a prison cell, but on the bench of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That's right, Judge Jay Bybee was one of the men who helped President Bush and Vice President Cheney render the Geneva Conventions "quaint." As Steve Sebelius wrote Tuesday in the Las Vegas Journal Review, it is "long past time to fire the torture judge." Working in the Office of Legal Counsel in 2002:
Bybee signed off on memos that authorized agents of the U.S. government to engage in torture, in part by re-defining the term. According to the memos -- drafted by then-Office of Legal Counsel attorney John Yoo -- "torture" means severe pain that rises to the level of a serious physical injury "...such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions."
And "a defendant must specifically intend to cause prolonged mental harm for the defendant to have committed torture," according to the memo. "Thus, if a defendant had a good faith belief that his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm, he lacks the mental state necessary for his actions to constitute torture."
Waterboarding? No problem. Sleep deprivation? OK. Stress positions? Go for it. And if you go too far? "In that case, we believe that [a person accused of torture] could argue that his actions were justified by the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack."
In these documents lay the seeds of America's torture program.
The outsized Mormon influence on the Bush Torture Team
didn't end there. As the Trib's David Irvine lamented back in 2009, "Take Latter-day Saint Timothy E. Flanigan, deputy White House counsel, who, along with David Addington, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, and Jim Haynes comprised the secretive "War Council" of lawyers -- a self-appointed group [Jane] Mayer describes as having virtually no experience in law enforcement, military service, counterterrorism or the Muslim world."
Flanigan once told his LDS ward congregation that it was gratifying "to work in a White House where every day was begun with prayer." In 2005, prior to his rejection by the Senate to be Gonzales' deputy attorney general, Flanigan was asked whether waterboarding, mock executions, physical beatings and painful stress positions were off-limits. "[It] depends on the facts and circumstances... ." He went on: "'Inhumane' can't be coherently defined."
As it turns out, his fellow Mormon and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney
couldn't coherently define "inhumane," either. When asked if waterboarding constituted torture, the man who once promised to "double Guantanamo" declared simply, "I don't." (At that same town hall event in October 2011, would-be President Romney announced, "I will not authorize torture.") Romney didn't just have "binders full of women," but position papers on torture, too. And as the New York Times
In a policy proposal drafted by Mitt Romney's advisers in September 2011, Mr. Romney's advisers urge him to "rescind and replace President Obama's executive order" and permit secret "enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives."
That December, the former bishop and former governor Romney put it this way
"We'll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now."
Now, none of this is to say that either most Mormons or LDS theology itself endorses the vindictive and counterproductive brutality of the Bush torture enthusiasts. Far from it. As Brooks' explains, in 2005 the LDS Church released a statement "condemning inhumane treatment of any person under any circumstance." And as Mormon Studies expert Professor Patrick Mason has told Brooks:
Mormonism has "no systematic theology" on issues like human rights or poverty or war. Its view of morality is "highly individualized."
But while there cannot be guilt by association, there also cannot be silence. (Among potential 2016 GOP White House hopefuls
, Mitt Romney among others has yet to weigh in on the Senate Intelligence Committee's report.) American torture was an abomination. Sadly, many of those who enabled and defended it just happen to be prominent members of the fastest-growing faith in the United States. Yet so far, they have faced not punishment but only prosperity.