Has Consulting Firm For CIA Gone MIA?

by Sheri Fink, ProPublica

Last week in Spokane, Wash., href="http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2009/may/22/protesters-hold-anti-tort
ure-rally/">protesters rallied against torture outside the longtime offices of a consulting firm founded by two former military psychologists who reportedly helped develop abusive interrogation techniques for the CIA and the U.S. military. The psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, reportedly trained interrogators to use waterboarding on U.S.-held detainees after the Sept. 11 attacks. (See this story by Katherine Eban in Vanity Fair, this
by Mark Benjamin in Salon, and this
by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker. ABC News also recently
Mitchell and Jessen and has footage of the two declining to comment.)

Little did the protesters know, but the consulting firm they had come to protest was no longer there.

Last month, ProPublica reached Mitchell, Jessen and Associates at a phone number linked to the American Legion building where the company lists its official address. When we called the same number last Friday, it had been disconnected with no forwarding number.

A woman who answered the phone at the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, which is located in the same building, told us that Mitchell, Jessen and Associates had moved out of the building in April and closed its office there. She gave no further information.

Two employees of the Center, which describes itself as an educational institution focused on preventing workplace violence and improving travel safety, are listed by the Washington Secretary of State as "governing persons" in Mitchell, Jessen and Associates. We left a message for the two men, Roger Aldrich and Randall Spivey, at the Center on Wednesday.

The management company for the building, SDS Realty, confirmed that Mitchell, Jessen and Associates had moved out in April and left no forwarding address. In late March, the real estate company was listing the 4,100-square-foot suite being vacated by the consulting firm as available for lease at $7,346 per month.

An employee of the Washington secretary of state's corporations division told us that Mitchell, Jessen and Associates was still registered as a business in the state. The company's next annual report is due to the state in September.

Mitchell, Jessen and Associates is also incorporated in good standing in Delaware, but does not have a current phone number listed there. Its only listed address is that of a business service provider, National Registered Agents, Inc.

Also, a corporate database lists an Alexandria, Virginia address for Mitchell, Jessen and Associates. The phone number listed there doesn't work. But another corporation listed at the same address is Tate Incorporated, a business consulting firm. According to information on Tate's Web site, the firm's president is David Ayres, another "governing person" of Mitchell, Jessen and Associates. The phone number for Tate works, and we left a message for Mr. Ayres on Wednesday.

Interestingly, Tate's Website lists two open positions for a "SERE Instructor." SERE refers to "Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape," a training program the U.S. military offers to help personnel prepare for enemy capture.

Mitchell and Jessen were formerly SERE psychologists and reportedly helped "reverse-engineer" SERE techniques – such as slapping, stress positions, and waterboarding – for use on detainees held in U.S. custody. For more detail, see our previous story.

Lisa Schwartz contributed research to this post.

Sheri Fink is a reporter for ProPublica, America's largest investigative newsroom.