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A private contractor for the CIA who played a key role in developing so-called "waterboarding" interrogation techniques that have been condemned as torture faced the beginning of a week of questioning by lawyers at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Washington Post reported.

James Mitchell was quizzed by defence lawyers representing five detainees at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay prison camp, including Khaled Shaikh Mohammad, who is accused of being the architect of the hijack plot on 11 September 2001, that killed almost 3.000 Americans, the report said on Tuesday.

The five are to face a war crimes trial a year from now at Guantanamo Bay and could face the death penalty if convicted. They claim the evidence they gave against themselves to the FBI was tainted because they had been coerced by CIA interrogators using the techniques of Mitchell, a former US Air Force psychologist, the report noted.

Earlier, it was reported that Mitchell along with another ex-US Air Force psychologist Bruce Jessen would give evidence in Guantanamo Bay as part of the ongoing pre-trial hearings on the 9/11 attacks over "enhanced interrogation techniques". They both proclaimed their innocence and insisted they acted on behalf of the George W. Bush administration at the time.

Mitchell worked with others including another private contractor to develop the waterboarding interrogation techniques. He said the CIA feared another catastrophic attack, that might include nuclear weapons was being planned and had to be detected and prevented, the report said.

Waterboarding is a simulation of drowning, and it was allegedly among other torture techniques used with detainees. An investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that prisoners at other CIA facilities were waterboarded, put in ice water baths, beaten while blind-folded, and had pureed food forcibly infused into them rectally.