By Bobby Ghosh/Washington Monday, June 08, 2009
The following was written by Bobby Ghosh/Washington for Time Magazine:
" Correction Appended: May 29, 2009
The most successful interrogation of an Al-Qaeda operative by U.S. officials required no sleep deprivation, no slapping or "walling" and no waterboarding. All it took to soften up Abu Jandal, who had been closer to Osama bin Laden than any other terrorist ever captured, was a handful of sugar-free cookies.
Abu Jandal had been in a Yemeni prison for nearly a year when Ali Soufan of the FBI and Robert McFadden of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrived to interrogate him in the week after 9/11. Although there was already evidence that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, American authorities needed conclusive proof, not least to satisfy skeptics like Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whose support was essential for any action against the terrorist organization. U.S. intelligence agencies also needed a better understanding of al-Qaeda's structure and leadership. Abu Jandal was the perfect source: the Yemeni who grew up in Saudi Arabia had been bin Laden's chief bodyguard, trusted not only to protect him but also to put a bullet in his head rather than let him be captured. (See pictures of do-it-yourself waterboarding attempts.)
Abu Jandal's guards were so intimidated by him, they wore masks to hide their identities and begged visitors not to refer to them by name in his presence. He had no intention of cooperating with the Americans; at their first meetings, he refused even to look at them and ranted about the evils of the West. Far from confirming al-Qaeda's involvement in 9/11, he insisted the attacks had been orchestrated by Israel's Mossad. While Abu Jandal was venting his spleen, Soufan noticed that he didn't touch any of the cookies that had been served with tea: "He was a diabetic and couldn't eat anything with sugar in it." At their next meeting, the Americans brought him some sugar-free cookies, a gesture that took the edge off Abu Jandal's angry demeanor. "We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him," Soufan recalls. "So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures."
It took more questioning, and some interrogators' sleight of hand, before the Yemeni gave up a wealth of information about al-Qaeda — including the identities of seven of the 9/11 bombers — but the cookies were the turning point. "After that, he could no longer think of us as evil Americans," Soufan says. "Now he was thinking of us as human beings."
Soufan, now an international-security consultant, has emerged as a powerful critic of the George W. Bush — era interrogation techniques; he has testified against them in congressional hearings and is an expert witness in cases against detainees. He has described the techniques as "borderline torture" and "un-American." His larger argument is that methods like waterboarding are wholly unnecessary — traditional interrogation methods, a combination of guile and graft, are the best way to break down even the most stubborn subjects. He told a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that it was these methods, not the harsh techniques, that prompted al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah to give up the identities of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla. Bush Administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, had previously claimed that Abu Zubaydah supplied that information only after he was waterboarded. But Soufan says once the rough treatment began — administered by CIA-hired private contractors with no interrogation experience — Abu Zubaydah actually stopped cooperating. (Read "Dick Cheney: Why So Chatty All of a Sudden?")
The debate over the CIA's interrogation techniques and their effectiveness has intensified since President Barack Obama's decision to release Bush Administration memos authorizing the use of waterboarding and other harsh methods. Defenders of the Bush program, most notably Cheney, say the use of waterboarding produced actionable intelligence that helped the U.S. disrupt terrorist plots. But the experiences of officials like Soufan suggest that the utility of torture is limited at best and counterproductive at worst. Put simply, there's no definitive evidence that torture works.
The crucial question going forward is, What does? How does an interrogator break down a hardened terrorist without using violence? TIME spoke with several interrogators who have worked for the U.S. military as well as others who have recently retired from the intelligence services (the CIA and FBI turned down requests for interviews with current staffers). All agreed with Soufan: the best way to get intelligence from even the most recalcitrant subject is to apply the subtle arts of interrogation rather than the blunt instruments of torture. "There is nothing intelligent about torture," says Eric Maddox, an Army staff sergeant whose book Mission: Black List #1 chronicles his interrogations in Iraq that ultimately led to the capture of Saddam Hussein. "If you have to inflict pain, then you've lost control of the situation, the subject and yourself."
There is no definitive textbook on interrogation. The U.S. Army field manual, updated in 2006, lists 19 interrogation techniques, ranging from offering "real or emotional reward" for truthful answers to repeating questions again and again "until the source becomes so thoroughly bored with the procedure, he answers questions fully and candidly." (Obama has ordered the CIA to follow the Army manual until a review of its interrogation policies has been completed.) Some of the most interesting techniques are classified as "emotional approaches." Interrogators may flatter a detainee's ego by praising some particular skill. Alternatively, the interrogators may attack the detainee's ego by accusing him of incompetence, goading him to defend himself and possibly give up information in the process. If interrogators choose to go on the attack, however, they may not "cross the line into humiliating and degrading treatment of the detainee." (See pictures of the battle against the Taliban.)
But experienced interrogators don't limit themselves to the 19 prescribed techniques. Matthew Alexander, a military interrogator whose efforts in Iraq led to the location and killing of al-Qaeda leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, says old-fashioned criminal-investigation techniques work better than the Army manual. "Often I'll use tricks that are not part of the Army system but that every cop knows," says Alexander. "Like when you bring in two suspects, you take them to separate rooms and offer a deal to the first one who confesses." (Alexander, one of the authors of How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq, uses a pseudonym for security purposes.)
Others apply methods familiar to psychologists and those who deprogram cult members. James Fitzsimmons, a retired FBI interviewer who dealt extensively with al-Qaeda members, says terrorism suspects often use their membership in a group as a psychological barrier. The interrogator's job, he says, "is to bring them out from the collective identity to the personal identity." To draw them out, Fitzsimmons invites his subjects to talk about their personal histories, all the way back to childhood. This makes them think of themselves as individuals rather than as part of a group.
Ultimately, every interrogation is a cat-and-mouse game, and seasoned interrogators have more than one way to coax, cajole or trick their captives into yielding information. Lying and dissimulation are commonplace. When a high-ranking insurgent spoke of his spendthrift wife, Alexander said he sympathized because he too had a wife who loved to shop. The two men bonded over this common "problem"; the insurgent never knew that Alexander is single. The Army manual even includes a "false flag" technique: interrogators may pretend to be of other nationalities if they feel a captive will not cooperate with Americans. (Read "Beyond Waterboarding: What Interrogators Can Still Do.") Other countries that have experienced insurgencies and terrorism have evolved rules too. From Britain, with its Irish separatists, to Israel, with its Palestinian militants, most such countries have tended to move away from harsh techniques. But institutional relapses can occur: human-rights lawyers and Palestinians with experience in Israeli prisons say some violent interrogation techniques have returned in recent years.
Each interrogator has his own idea of how to run an interrogation. Soufan likes to research his captive as thoroughly as possible before entering the interrogation room. "If you can get them to think you know almost everything to know about them — their families, their friends, their movements — then you've got an advantage," he says. "Because then they're thinking, 'Well, this guy already knows so much, there's no point in resisting ... I might as well tell him everything.'" When Abu Zubaydah tried to conceal his identity after his capture, Soufan stunned him by using the nickname given to him by his mother. "Once I called him 'Hani,' he knew the game was up," Soufan says.
To get Abu Jandal's cooperation, Soufan and McFadden laid a trap. After palliating his rage with the sugar-free cookies, they got him to identify a number of al-Qaeda members from an album of photographs, including Mohamed Atta and six other 9/11 hijackers. Next they showed him a local newspaper headline that claimed (erroneously) that more than 200 Yemenis had been killed in the World Trade Center. Abu Jandal agreed that this was a terrible crime and said no Muslim could be behind the attacks. Then Soufan dropped the bombshell: some of the men Abu Jandal had identified in the album had been among the hijackers. Without realizing it, the Yemeni prisoner had admitted that al-Qaeda had been responsible for 9/11: For all his resistance, he had given the Americans what they wanted. "He was broken, completely shattered," Soufan says. From that moment on, Abu Jandal was completely cooperative, giving Soufan and McFadden reams of information — names and descriptions of scores of al-Qaeda operatives, details of training and tactics.
Alexander, who conducted more than 300 interrogations and supervised more than 1,000 others in Iraq, says the key to a successful interrogation lies in understanding the subject's motivation. In the spring of 2006, he was interrogating a Sunni imam connected with al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was then run by al-Zarqawi; the imam "blessed" suicide bombers before their final mission. His first words to Alexander were, "If I had a knife right now, I'd slit your throat." Asked why, the imam said the U.S. invasion had empowered Shi'ite thugs who had evicted his family from their home. Humiliated, he had turned to the insurgency. Alexander's response was to offer a personal apology: "I said, 'Look, I'm an American, and I want to say how sorry I am that we made so many mistakes in your country.'" The imam, Alexander says, broke down in tears. The apology undercut his motivation for hating Americans and allowed him to open up to his interrogator. Alexander then nudged the conversation in a new direction, pointing out that Iraq and the U.S. had a common enemy: Iran. The two countries needed to cooperate in order to prevent Iraq from becoming supplicant to the Shi'ite mullahs in Tehran — a fear commonly expressed by Sunnis. Eventually the imam gave up the location of a safe house for suicide bombers; a raid on the house led to the capture of an al-Qaeda operative who in turn led U.S. troops to al-Zarqawi. (See pictures of U.S. troops' 6 years in Iraq.)
Proponents of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques say the noncoercive methods are useless in emergencies, when interrogators have just minutes, not days, to extract vital, lifesaving information. The worst-case scenario is often depicted in movies and TV series like 24: a captured terrorist knows where and when a bomb will go off (in a mall, in a school, on Capitol Hill), and his interrogators must make him talk at once or else risk thousands of innocent lives. It's not just fervid screenwriters who believe that such a scenario calls for the use of brute force. In 2002, Richard Posner, a Court of Appeals judge in Chicago and one of the most respected legal authorities in the U.S., wrote in the New Republic that "if torture is the only means of obtaining the information necessary to prevent the detonation of a nuclear bomb in Times Square, torture should be used ... No one who doubts that this is the case should be in a position of responsibility."
The CIA's controversial methods, argue their defenders, were spawned by precisely that sense of urgency: in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, amid swirling rumors of further attacks to come — including the possibility of a "dirty" nuclear bomb — the Bush Administration had no choice but to authorize the use of whatever means necessary to extract information from suspected terrorists. "We had a lot of blind spots after the attacks on our country," former Vice President Cheney explained in a May 21 speech in Washington. "We didn't know about al-Qaeda's plans, but Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a few others did know. And with many thousands of innocent lives potentially in the balance, we didn't think it made sense to let the terrorists answer questions in their own good time, if they answered them at all."
But professional interrogators say the ticking-time-bomb scenario is no more than a thought experiment; it rarely, if ever, occurs in real life. It's true that U.S. intelligence managed to extract information about some "aspirational" al-Qaeda plots through interrogation of prisoners captured after 9/11. But none of those plots have been revealed — at least to the public — to have been imminent attacks. And there is still no conclusive proof that any usable intelligence the U.S. did glean through harsh interrogations could not have been extracted using other methods.
In fact, a smart interrogator may be able to turn the ticking-bomb scenario on its head and use a sense of urgency against a captive. During combat raids in Iraq, Maddox grew used to interrogating insurgents on the fly, often at the point of capture. His objective: to quickly extract information on the location of other insurgents hiding out nearby. "I'd say to them, 'As soon as your friends know you've been captured, they'll assume that you're going to give them up, and they'll run for it. So if you want to help yourself, to get a lighter sentence, you've got to tell me everything right now, because in a couple of hours you'll have nothing of value to trade.'"
That trick led to Maddox's finest hour in Iraq. At 6 a.m. on December 13, 2003, the final day of his tour of duty, two hours before his flight out of Baghdad, he began interrogating Mohammed Ibrahim, a midranking Baath Party leader known to be close to Saddam Hussein. More than 40 of Ibrahim's friends and family members associated with the insurgency were already in custody. For an hour and a half, Maddox tried to persuade him that giving up Saddam could lead to the release of his friends and family. Then Maddox played his final card: "I told him he had to talk quickly because Saddam might move," he says. "I also said that once I got on the plane, I would no longer be able to help him. My colleagues would just toss him in prison. Instead of saving 40 of his friends and family, he'd become No. 41." It worked. That evening, Ibrahim's directions led U.S. forces to Saddam's spider hole.
Correction: The original version of this story identified Ali Soufan as an expert witness in cases brought by detainees. He has been a witness in cases against detainees. "
Published December 12, 2008, FoxNews.com
" He is the man who tracked down the Ace of Spades: Saddam Hussein, the top card in the U.S. military's deck of cards, found crouching like a mole in a darkened spider hole under a trap door at the back of a farm in Tikrit.
For the first time since the Army's 4th Infantry Division captured Saddam in a dramatic raid on Dec. 13, 2003, the U.S. intelligence officer who hunted him down has come forward with his story.
Speaking to FOX News, Staff Sgt. Eric Maddox, who still serves as an interrogator for the Department of Defense, described how he bucked what had been the strategy to find Saddam in the first months of the war -- going after the big name players in the defeated government who were on the loose in the hopes that, if caught, they would reveal Saddam's whereabouts.
"I think the entire story of how Saddam was captured was misunderstood. It was an interrogation over four months. I interrogated over 300 people," Maddox said.
• Click here to see an interview with Staff Sgt. Eric Maddox on the capture of Saddam.
Maddox arrived in Iraq in July 2003. He had never interrogated anyone before. He was sent to Tikrit by his commander — known simply by his nickname of BamBam because of the secret nature of his work.
He thought he was going to be there two days, and he had brought one change of clothes — a short-sleeved baby blue oxford shirt. His detainees told him later that insurgents had put a price on his head — describing him only as "the guy in the blue shirt."
Through careful triangulation and the targeted renditions of low-level drivers and bodyguards — about 32 relatively unknown characters, none of whom ever served in prominent positions in Saddam's government — a Special Operations Task Force unit was taken to the farm in Tikrit where Saddam was hiding.
Maddox said he never tortured anyone, mostly because he doesn't think it works.
But he finally got his lucky break. He arrested a driver who, after eight hours of interrogation, revealed the name of the man who held the key to finding Saddam.
"He finally stopped and said, 'You don't get it do you?' Maddox recalled.
"I said, 'Who do you work for?'
"He said, 'I work for Muhammad Ibrahim.'
"I said, 'Who does he work for?'
"He said, 'He works for the president.'
"And I knew he was talking about Saddam. I said, 'What's he doing for him?'
"He said, 'he's running the insurgency.'
"I said, 'in Tikrit?'
"He said, 'No, in the whole country.'"
That interrogation took place on Dec 1. Over the next 13 days they rounded up 40 family members of Muhammad Ibrahim — anyone who knew him. A lead took them to a house in Baghdad on Dec. 12 — the last day of Maddox's tour in Iraq. They arrested three people — among them Muhammad Ibrahim's lieutenant. The other detainees had bags placed over their heads.
"So I was interrogating the lieutenant and eventually he said, 'I do know Muhammad Ibrahim,' Maddox recalled.
"I said, 'Where was he last night?'
"He said, 'He was at the house (where the raid had taken place).' "
Maddox thought he had escaped.
"I'm like, 'We just missed him.' And my interpreter says, 'No, he was at the house."
They had him.
"So I ran to the cell thinking he's one of these three guys," Maddox said excitedly. "So I lifted up the hoods."
They had Muhammad Ibrahim — the head of the insurgency and Saddam's right-hand man — and they hadn't even known it.
"So I looked at him and I said, 'You are Muhammad Ibrahim. I've been waiting to meet you.'
"And my translator says, 'He's been waiting to meet you too.'"
Maddox had three hours before he was to fly out of Iraq, since his tour was up. He told that to Ibrahim -- and that he had 40 of his relatives in custody and 20 more on a list to nab.
"At the end of those two hours, he did say I'll take you to him (Saddam)," Maddox said.
The task force flew him from Baghdad to the farm in Tikrit. They spent several hours looking for Saddam. Ibrahim didn't want to finger him. Eventually, he walked to the spider hole and kicked a rope.
"The special ops team members noticed it. So they backed him away and pulled it up. And there he was," Maddox said.
Muhammad Ibrahim remains in an Iraqi prison. The Special Forces team found 11.2 million dollars at his house that had been used to fund the insurgency. His family members were set free.
Maddox returned to the U.S.
Saddam Hussein was hanged on Dec. 30, 2006.
Staff Sergeant Eric Maddox recently wrote "Mission: Black List #1: The Inside Story of the Search for Saddam Hussein — As Told by the Soldier Who Masterminded His Capture," By Eric Maddox with Davin Seay, published by HarperCollins. "
21 May 2012 3:01 PM, PDT | WENN | See recent WENN news
" The war hero Robert Pattinson will portray in new movie Mission: Blacklist has given the Twilight star the thumbs up to play him after spending 14 hours with the Brit. In the new movie, which chronicles the capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Pattinson will play real-life military interrogator Eric Maddox, who wrote the book that inspired the film project. And as the movie creates a buzz at the Cannes Film Festival in France, Maddox has gone public with his thoughts about the casting - and he approves. He says, "For me, it was a no-brainer. I said absolutely! Whatever you did to get that guy to be a part of this movie, I think it's wonderful and I fully support it. We're talking about a guy who is super famous and really popular. "We met for 14 hours and he focused exclusively on the project and wanted to get down to the nitty gritty of the project. His entire focus was on the project. It wasn't about him or his needs, and from that, I realised that this is a guy who is dedicated to his work and wanted to put in the hours. That's what made me certain that they have built the right team for this." "
Added by Indo American News on December 24, 2010. Saved under Featured
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" HOUSTON: Criss-crossing with questions, opening up the dialogue and keeping the story flowing with a live microphone in front of him, Subodh Buchar’s alter ego, the radio talk show host, is piquing the interest of the listeners who have tuned into Open Forum on a cool Saturday afternoon last weekend.
Buchaar’s speaking with Staff Sergeant Eric Maddox who was the mastermind behind the capture of former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussain in mid December 2003.
Maddox had just flown in from Oklahoma to promote his best selling book, Mission : Black List #1, a vivid account of his pivotal role is locating Hussain, and was also supporting the work of the United Services Organization, better known as the USO, with proceeds from the sale of his book.
The USO is a 70 year old private, non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization that provides morale, welfare and recreation-type services to uniformed military personnel with nearly 120 Centers around the world.
Also in the studio is Lt. Col. (rtd.) Susie Barlow, the Director of the Houston USO who listened in eagerly as did Staff Sergeant Cole Veigel, US 4th Infantry Division, US Army who saw action in Iraq on his last tour of duty there and now helping the USO in Houston.
Maddox’s account of the events that led upto the capture of Hussain are riveting. As he starts from the July 3, 2003, the day he arrived in Iraq . As the only interrogator available at the time, he was sent to Tikrit, which was Hussain’s hometown, for two days and went on a raid with a squad. Maddox realized that four of Saddam’s bodyguards were still in Tikrit and he theorized that they were mobilizing fighters in the region against the US forces.
After explaining his theory to his superiors, the four bodyguards were placed on a wanted list and a team went after one of them, but he had a massive heart attack and died after being captured. Maddox interviewed his son, who divulged a business associate, Mohammed Ibrahim and the hunt was on for him.
From December 1 to 12, Maddox and his squad went in search of Ibrahim, and finally caught him and placed him in jail. But, on December 13, Maddox had to leave on another assignment and soon after he left, Ibrahim revealed the whereabouts of Saddam, leading to his eventual capture in the now famous spider hole.
“Some of our community’s kids, like Mayur Sharma, have been sent to fight in Iraq,” explained Buchar, “and we want to be able to support them too.” He went onto to describe how, two years ago, donations were being collected at community events to buy phonecards for soldiers to use when making calls back to their families in the US. “The work that the USO does is just so valuable,” he added, encouraging listeners to support it by calling in donations.
As some callers came in, Barlow explained the working of the USO and how it helps families and troops with all sorts of aid and morale boosting programs. For those who called in to the program and donated $50 to the USO, they would also receive a free autographed copy of Maddox’s book.
To contact the USO and donate, visit www.uso.org "
By David Danzig, Deputy Program Director at Human Rights First, Posted May 13, 2009 03:18 PM
" According to Ali Soufan, an FBI interrogator, waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation" procedures caused a key Al Qaeda operative to clam up, not provide actionable intelligence as former Vice President Dick Cheney and others have claimed.
Soufan provided gripping Senate testimony today. He related in detail how he was able to get Abu Zubaydah, a suspect who was believed to play a lead role in Al Qaeda, to talk.
In my first interrogation of the terrorist Abu Zubaydah, who had strong links to al Qaeda's leaders and who knew the details of the 9/11 plot before it happened, I asked him his name. He replied with his alias. I then asked him, "how about if I call you Hani?" That was the name his mother nicknamed him as a child. He looked at me in shock, said "ok," and we started talking.
Soufan was well suited to interrogate Abu Zubaydah. He had been involved in hundreds of other interrogations of Al Qaeda suspects. He told the committee about his experience successfully "breaking" an Al Qaeda operative known as Abu Jandal and others.
Soufan told the subcommittee that after Abu Zubaydah was cooperating, a CIA team led by a contractor began to use increasingly abusive interrogation techniques - over Soufan's objections - and Abu Zubaydah stopped talking. Soufan is one of many interrogators whose experience proves that using physical force to "break" detainees is not an effective way to obtain information.
I recently spent three days with Eric Maddox, the interrogator responsible for developing the intelligence that led to Saddam Hussein and Matthew Alexander, the interrogator who led a team that developed the intelligence that led US forces to Al Zarqawi (the former head of Al Qaeda in Iraq).
Both Maddox and Alexander do not believe that waterboarding is an effective interrogation technique.
As Maddox explained, "I'm not all about human rights. I am about doing what needs to be done to get a guy to talk."
To capture Saddam, Maddox "broke" nine key detainees - some within a matter of minutes - by earning their trust and understanding what motivated them.
"You have to understand the psychology," Maddox, who has conducted more than 2000 interrogations, explained. "When you waterboard someone he fears for his life, but there are more powerful motivators."
Maddox said that in his experience manipulating a detainee's love of family and or pride will yield better results. He tells a story in Mission: Blacklist #1, his book that details his experience chasing Saddam, about convincing Saddam's key lieutenant to provide details about the hole where Saddam is hiding.
The story is gripping. What it boils down to is that Maddox understood that the lieutenant valued his family more than his relationship with Saddam. Maddox gave him an opportunity to protect his family by giving up Saddam.
"This was the most important moment in this guy's life," Maddox said. "He had to trust me to follow through. He is not going to do that if I have just waterboarded him."
Alexander agreed. His view is that capturing Khalid Sheik Muhammed was a golden opportunity to crack open Al Qaeda and target its senior leadership. "In interrogation you always want to work up," said Alexander, who uses a pseudonym for security reasons. "You want to get the 'head of the snake.'"
"They were not able to do that because they employed a technique that is all about getting the bare minimum out of a detainee."
Like Maddox and Alexander, Soufan began to approach Zubaydah by talking to him, not beating him up. He told the Senate subcommittee that the technique he used was called "the Informed Interrogation Approach."
Using this approach, Soufan relied on his brain to get Zubaydah to talk. He treated Zubaydah with respect. As his testimony makes clear, Soufan acted this way because he was convinced that it was the most likely way to get the suspect to talk.
Acting in a non-threatening way isn't how the detainee is trained to expect a U.S. interrogator to act. This adds to the detainee's confusion and makes him more likely to cooperate.
Soufan said that Zubaydah provided key information about Al Qaeda's structure and planned operations until a team of CIA interrogators arrived and began to apply force.
During his capture Abu Zubaydah had been injured. After seeing the extent of his injuries, the CIA medical team supporting us decided they were not equipped to treat him and we had to take him to a hospital or he would die. At the hospital, we continued our questioning as much as possible, while taking into account his medical condition and the need to know all information he might have on existing threats.
We were once again very successful and elicited information regarding the role of KSM as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and lots of other information that remains classified. (It is important to remember that before this we had no idea of KSM's role in 9/11 or his importance in the al Qaeda leadership structure.) A few days after we started questioning Abu Zubaydah, the CTC interrogation team finally arrived from DC with a contractor who was instructing them on how they should conduct the interrogations, and we were removed. Immediately, on the instructions of the contractor, harsh techniques were introduced, starting with nudity. (The harsher techniques mentioned in the memos were not introduced or even discussed at this point.)
The new techniques did not produce results as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking. At that time nudity and low-level sleep deprivation (between 24 and 48 hours) was being used. After a few days of getting no information, and after repeated inquiries from DC asking why all of sudden no information was being transmitted (when before there had been a steady stream), we again were given control of the interrogation.
We then returned to using the Informed Interrogation Approach. Within a few hours, Abu Zubaydah again started talking and gave us important actionable intelligence.
This included the details of Jose Padilla, the so-called "dirty bomber." To remind you of how important this information was viewed at the time, the then-Attorney General, John Ashcroft, held a press conference from Moscow to discuss the news. Other important actionable intelligence was also gained that remains classified.
After a few days, the contractor attempted to once again try his untested theory and he started to re-implementing the harsh techniques. He moved this time further along the force continuum, introducing loud noise and then temperature manipulation.
There is a historical precedent for the work that Soufan, Maddox and Alexander have done. Indeed, one of the greatest interrogators of all time is generally thought to be Hans Scharff, a Nazi (if you can believe it) interrogator who had tremendous success interrogating US airmen who were captured during WWII. Scharff was so friendly and so well-versed in American culture and military strategy that many airmen said afterwards that they did not even realize that they were being interrogated. They felt as if they were telling an old friend information that he already knew.
Orin Deforrest, a CIA agent, used a similar approach in Vietnam and developed what many regard as the best intelligence operation conducted during that war. And COL Stu Herrington used this sort of "rapport-building" approach in his interrogations in Panama that caused Noriega's henchmen to spill key secrets. Herrington says that if he were to run into one of the detainees he interrogated at the time - or at any time during his 30-year career - "they would probably buy me a drink."
The list goes on and on.
By contrast there is no scientific evidence that suggests that waterboarding is an effective method to interrogate people, according to COL Steve Kleinman, an Air Force intelligence officer who helped produce a comprehensive study of interrogation and torture for the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2006.
To the contrary Kleinman said, the limited scientific evidence suggests that waterboarding is counter-productive. "It makes people more resolute and more determined that the cause they are fighting for is correct," Kleinman told me recently. "It does not make them want to talk."
Soufan's testimony is another chapter in the seemingly forgotten history of interrogation. We have a good sense of what works and what does not in the interrogation booth. The question going forward is: are policymakers and the American public willing to learn from our mistakes and listen to the real pros who have done interrogation successfully or are we simply too scared by the threat of Al Qaeda to operate in a manner that is logical and consistent with our self-interest?
David Danzig is the Deputy Program Director at Human Rights First. Eric Maddox's book, Operation: Blacklist #1, details his efforts in chasing Saddam Hussein
Matthew Alexander's book, How to Break a Terrorist, describes the interrogations that led to Al Zarqawi "
By David Danzig Tuesday, September 1, 2009 4:48 pm
" Have you heard of Ishmael? He is the bogeyman of Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen.
In his column today, Cohen says that Ishmael, a fictionalized "terrorist or a suicide bomber or anything you want" who the U.S. will capture one day, won’t talk because the Obama administration has outlawed the use of waterboarding and other abusive "enhanced" interrogation techniques.
He knows the new restrictions. He knows the new limits. He may even suggest to his interrogators that their jobs are on the line — that the Justice Department is looking over their shoulders. The tape is running. Everything is being recorded. He is willing to give up his life. Are his interrogators willing to give up their careers? He laughs.
The implication is that the U.S interrogator – who sits across the table from this trained killer – can do nothing (but maybe cry) when the terrorist laughs. The reality is that U.S. interrogators in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere face thousands of real-life Ishmaels every day and they consistently get them to talk without abusing them.
Here are three real life examples that I hope Cohen (and others who are interested) will look into:
(1) The capture of Saddam Hussein Eric Maddox, a former Army Staff Sergeant, spearheaded the effort to catch the most wanted man in Iraq. When he arrived in Iraq in July of 2003, he had never done an interrogation. Six months later he interrogated the man who was principally responsible for Saddam’s security and he got him to reveal the location of the spider hole where the former Iraqi President was hiding within a matter of hours. Along the way he "broke" at least nine key insurgent leaders, using entirely legal techniques. He even has a book out describing how he did it – Mission Black List #1.
"There is nothing intelligent about torture," says Maddox. "If you have to inflict pain then you have lost control of the situation, the subject and yourself."
(2) The hunt for Al Zarqawi, the former head of Al Qaeda in Iraq When Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym) began interrogating a cleric who used to bless Al Qaeda suicide bombers, the cleric told him that he wished he had a knife so that he could cut Alexander’s throat. Three days later he willingly gave up info that set Alexander and his team on the path to find Zarqawi. Alexander, like Maddox, has been able to seduce senior level Al Qaeda leaders into talking to him about sensitive information hours after he begins an interrogation. Alexander’s techniques are also described in a book that he wrote about the hunt for Zarqawi: How to Break A Terrorist.
"The former administration never brought Osama bin Laden to justice," says Alexander. "Our best chance to locate him would have been through Khalid Sheikh Muhammed or Abu Zubaydah had they not been waterboarded."
(3) Interrogations of Japanese soldiers during WWII I chose this as a third example to show that this is not new. Generations of U.S. interrogators have been questioning hardened detainees and getting answers without resorting to abuse.
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) recently published a study that reminds us that the most effective U.S. interrogators during WWII resisted the temptation to view their detainees as fanatical animals who should be brutalized. The same study catalogues efforts by three U.S. interrogators during the Vietnam War who treated their hard-core prisoners humanely and got them to talk. Check out:Interrogation: World War II, Vietnam and Iraq.
I have talked to Maddox, Alexander and COL Stu Herrington (one of the interrogators profiled in the DIA study). They all agree that torture can "work" in the sense that you can waterboard a detainee and he may talk. He may even tell you the truth.
Alexander says, "anything can work." He used to give a milkshake to a young kid whose dad used to bring him to suicide bomb Al Qaeda planning sessions. They’d drink their milkshakes and the kid would tell him who was involved and where they used to meet. Anything can work.
But they all say that the percentages are not on your side if you use waterboarding. "These are determined people," Joe Navarro, a former FBI interrogator explained to me once. "You think that if you rip their fingernails out or dunk them under water, they will all of a sudden change their minds and tell you everything? That’s not how it works."
As we all know, torture leads to all sorts of larger problems. It undercuts the morale of your own force. It creates diplomatic hurdles. And it has been used as an extraordinary recruitment tool by the opposition. Intelligence officers who served in Iraq report that after the revelations of Abu Ghraib they often found pictures of U.S.-induced torture in the pockets of the foreign fighters they picked up on the battlefield.
Why would U.S. interrogators choose to use techniques that cause so much harm when other techniques have proven to be so much more effective?
If and when we do pick up the next Ishmael, I hope that the interrogator who questions him took the time to read Maddox’s and Alexander’s books and not just Richard Cohen.
David Danzig is the Deputy Program Director of Human Rights First, a New York City-based international human rights organization. Facebook Twitter "
By Rusty Graham, Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2010 12:00 am, Updated: 5:44 pm, Wed Dec 29, 2010
" “You’re Muhammad Ibrahim,” I said numbly, without even considering my words. “I’ve been waiting to meet you.”
He said something in Arabic. The guard outside the cell door translated for me. “He says that you are the interrogator in the blue shirt.”
Thus on Dec. 13, 2003, Staff Sgt. Eric Maddox was introduced to the last man he would interrogate in Iraq.
After hundreds of interviews and interogations, Muhammad Ibrahim was the final link in a complicated chain of informants and insurgents, the one Maddox had been working for — the one that would lead to the capture of Sadaam Hussein.
Maddox told the story of the interrogations to more than 500 veterans, business leaders and members of the Houston West Chamber of Commerce Friday at the chamber’s annual Salute to Veterans luncheon.
He became known for the blue oxford shirt he wore almost every day in Tikrit, a city of about 260,000 and about 100 miles northwest of Bahgdad, and where Maddox went on what was supposed to be a short trip to interrogate a drunk bodyguard who had been arrested during a raid. That “short trip” turned into a four-month stay as Maddox pieced together a link diagram showing the connections between the many targets that combat teams brought in for questions.
Not that it was always easy, or even appreciated further up the chain of command. Maddox was largely alone with his theory that Sadaam was somewhere around Tikrit, his hometown, and that information extracted from Sadaam’s former bodyguards would lead coalition forces to the biggest target of all — Black List #1, the Ace of Spades.
“Nobody was supposed to find anything in Tikrit,” said Maddox. “All the action was in Bahgdad. “Nobody in Bahgdad thought we were close to Sadaam.”
The Salute to Veterans luncheon recognizes both veterans and active-duty service men and women from across Houston at an event that grows larger every year.
Honored with the chamber’s Heart of Service award this year were: Bill Balleza, KPRC news anchor and a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Bob Dees (Ret.), executive director of Military Ministry U.S. Air Force Capt. Gene Kranz (Ret.), retired NASA filght director who gained fame for his leadership in guiding the Apollo 13 mission back to earth. W.W. Thorne Jr., president emeritus of Lone Star College and a radar operator in the U.S. Navy during World War II
Maddox was presented with a Heart of Service award prior to delivering his keynote address. State Sen. Dan Patrick announced the recipients bur first recognized members and veterans of each branch of service, who stood while a rendition of that service’s song was performed by the Lone Star Dixieland Band.
But before guests filed into the ballroom for lunch at the Omni Houston Westside, they first witnessed a flyover by the Commemorative Air Force West Houston squadron, followed by a bugler’s Taps.
Once inside, performers Nash 3 sang their original compositions “In God We Still Trust” and the theme song for the USO, “Until Every One Comes Home”. A Texas A&M honor guard presented the colors. Coast Guard Lt. Lisa Taylor sand the national anthem.
“Salute to Veterans is more than a luncheon; it is a recognition, celebration, and tribute to the sacrificial service our military personnel have given to our country,” said Dr. Edmund “Butch” Herod, executive dean of academics and student services for Houston Community College Northwest. Barbara Hayley, active on the President’s Advisory Board USO Houston and chair of the Salute to Veterans Luncheon, was recognized for her work with both the USO and veterans.
The action might have been in Bahgdad, but Sadaam was holed up — literally — on a farm near Tikrit.
After a brief but intense interrogation, Maddox had left a defiant Muhammad Ibrahim, one of Sadaam’s top bodyguards, trusted friends and a leader in the post-invasion insurgency, with a simple message: sit in your cell and think about your life in prison if you don’t give up Sadaam, or bang on your cell door if you change your mind.
Muhammad Ibrahim’s capture and interrogation occurred overnight as Maddox, whose Iraq tour was over, was to fly to Qatar that morning to brief CENTCOM’s chief intelligence officer, a general. He was speeding to catch his flight (on an admiral’s private plane) when his friend and colleague Lee asked him what he’d done to Muhammad Ibrahim. What do you mean, Maddox asked. Something happened, Lee told him. He won’t stop banging on his cell door.
Maddox jumped out of the still moving vehicle to run back to the unit where Muhammad Ibrahim was detained.
A few minutes later Maddox had a crude map of Sadaam’s location, which he had another interrogator transmit to the Tikrit team. Maddox raced to catch his flight to Qatar.
It wasn’t until he was walking through the headquarters building there that he learned Sadaam had been captured.
“I just went numb,” Maddox said. “My buddy Lee was grabbing me and shaking me, but I was just numb.”
Maddox said he’s most proud of the tenaciousness displayed by the soldiers he worked with in finding Sadaam. “We just kept fighting and fighting until the end,” he said.
Sadaam Hussein was hanged on Dec. 29, 2006.