What happened? Immediately after Jessen was installed as bishop, a number of human rights gadflies started squawking about his past work with the CIA. It seems like Jessen and another LDS member, James Mitchell, both clinical psychologists with no previous interrogation or intelligence training, were contracted by the CIA in late 2001 after the 9-11 attacks to develop what are called “enhanced interrogation techniques” and to train interrogators during live demonstrations. Among the techniques were sleep deprivation and waterboarding, according to a 2009 U.S. Senate committee report. Jessen drew from his prior experience as an Air Force psychologist who helped develop training for air crews and other military personnel to resist interrogation at the Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base; the interrogation techniques he and Mitchell developed for the CIA following the 9-11 attacks were reverse-engineered from that resistance training. William Norman Grigg published a much more detailed account of Jessen's CIA activities on the Lew Rockwell website.
But Jessen's calling as bishop displeased some groups who have denounced him and James Mitchell for teaching the controversial techniques. Shahid Battar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a self-styled national grass-roots network for civil rights, civil liberties and the rule of law, said “I can think of no one less qualified for a position of moral and spiritual leadership”. But while Battar did not specifically criticize the Church, he added “It’s depressing how little human rights seems to matter to people.” Rusty Nelson, a former co-director of the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, was surprised by Jessen’s appointment and questioned the message it sends, complaining “He developed enhanced interrogation methods that are universally condemned.” And, of course, anti-Mormons exploited the controversy to question how Church leaders with the power of discernment could make such a choice.
But Stake President Lee explained how the calling came about. Lee said he interviewed Jessen about the controversy during the several-month period that he was being considered for the bishop’s post, and Jessen shared some information that Lee couldn’t reveal. He believed Jessen to be an honorable, trustworthy and humble man who will be able to help other members and keep their confidences. The recommendation to name Jessen as bishop was sent to the LDS Office of the First Presidency for approval, as are all such proposed appointments. But because of security considerations, Jessen is tight-lipped about his work with the government. These considerations are valid; remember how the Pentagon issued a formal warning to Matt Bissonette, the Navy SEAL who wrote the first-person account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011? They accused Bissonette of violating his signed agreement not to divulge classified information, and threatened him with stiff legal action.
Nevertheless, by mid-week, an LDS spokesman in Salt Lake City disclosed that Church leaders were looking into the matter, and by Sunday October 21st, Jessen had resigned. It is unknown whether Jessen was asked to resign, or whether he chose to do so voluntarily because he decided that his continued service as bishop would inflict harm upon the Church's reputation.
While a number of people are highly critical of the interrogation techniques taught by Bruce Jessen, it should be noted that he has not been investigated, indicted, or tried for anything done in relation to that matter. Consequently, he should be considered a fully law-abiding citizen just as worthy of consideration for a Church post as anyone else. There was no pretext for the Office of the First Presidency to have any doubts about his suitability to serve as bishop.
One person posted a comment in vigorous defense of Bruce Jessen on the Spokesman-Review:
voiceofreason14 on October 19 at 11:35 a.m:
Anyone advocating talk against the church doing this is insane.
Bruce Jessen was found innocent of any charges the Obama administration filed against him. HE DID HIS DUTY TO THE COUNTRY!
Any of you see what happened in Libya?
Had Bruce Jessen and his team still been in practice, Libya easily could have prevented, and saved the lives of all four Americans doing their duty to the country could have been saved, and the poor families of those men could have been spared the lives of their loved ones. I value the lives of those good Americans over any radical terrorist life. Bruce Jessen has sacrifieced so much for his country. His country threw him under the bus. His church did not.
As for James Lee, he performed a bold, honorable act.
So go ahead, say what you may. You are a naive fool if you judge Jessen for the things he’s done in order to protect American lives young and old, man and woman.
To Mr. Shahid Battar who was quoted in the article as saying he could think as no one less qualified for the position I say, there is none more qualified to fill such a position requiring honest, love, and dedication. So keep you’re rediculous comments to yourself.