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EP PODCASTSXML

December 19, 2008

The Art of Interrogation

Interrogation couchIt's fair to say that nobody knowledgeable about interrogations has ever produced a single example of torture working — either in the historical record or in contemporary experience — quite apart from consideration of the ethical implications. But proponents of torture find it all too easy to claim secret successes. So it's extremely helpful to hear once again the bright line admonition, never torture, from a seasoned interrogator who led the interrogation team in pursuit of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, at the time perhaps the deadliest man in Iraq. In his just published book, How To Break A Terrorist, written under the pseudonym of "Matthew Alexander," he describes the chase that culminates in Zarqawi's targeted killing. It's a lively read (I couldn't put it down) and most worthwhile. While I come at the issues with some different perspectives I salute "Matthew" for his unflinching determination to treat all detainees humanely and to interrogate them with kindness. And for his willingness to leave active duty and speak up for his beliefs. It was a pleasure and an honor to talk with "Matthew" and I hope his message gets heard. Total runtime an hour and eleven minutes. Think like a detective. [Graphic by Matt Mahurin, for fair use.]

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Comments

At about the 45 min. mark of this interview, one word just kept flashing in my head.

Eichmann.

"Matthew Alexander" was just so calm, so...

...rational.

I am so glad to finally hear someone say (and write) something definitive that torture and enhanced interrogation techniques are full of crap and archaic. Unfortunately, this message will fall on deaf, right-wing ears. Like many other human motivation related issues, the right-wing establishment minions will continue to assume that since they are terrified of authority and physical pain so that the threat of torture would cause them to roll over and squeal, this applies to everyone else on the planet. Apparently not. I just wish word of this would get out so I don't have to hear another conservative pundit bring up the incredibly lame and meaningless Jack Bower/"24" example of "what if a terrorist knew the location of a nuclear bomb set to go off in New York...". Besides being ludicrously unlikely, this is utterly irrelevant to 99.99999% of the interrogations that take place around the globe.

I think Matthew brought up the true motivation behind the current fondness for torture in the current administration, retaliation, plain and simple. It's how some interrogators "get in the game" when it comes to the war. It is truly a shame that some of his colleagues just could not accept the effectiveness of his techniques.

I will admit that I had allowed myself to give the CIA some leeway when it came to the decision of when and where to torture as they are "professionals" but it appears that even this leeway is unnecessary. It is my belief that the mess at Abu Ghraib was a direct result of the senior Pentagon administrators (real political appointees) trying to generate intel by asking soldiers (and reservists at that) to violate the Army Field Manual and engage in torture to soften up a random collection of detainees for a group of unnamed interrogators. It is my recollection that many of the soldiers at Abu Ghraib transferred out of this unit when their opposition to the abuse went unheeded, leaving only the ones who enjoyed their work. Even so, it is still truly reprehensible (and criminally punishable in my mind) that senior military and Pentagon leadership ducked their responsibility for the "Gitmo-ized" debacle (I really hope I never have the misfortune of being in the same room with Rumsfeld). All the more tragic that these methods are ineffective and unreliable. I was very gratified to hear soon after the Abu Ghraib scandal that many military lawyers had opposed torture during the entire debacle attempting to preserve the moral fabric and reputation of the uniform.

How many decades or generations will it take to repair US reputation on Human Rights?

Thanks again George for a great interview!

[Thanks, Andy! g.]

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