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Interrogation Techniques

For those of you who thought that the interrogation of AQ mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was going to be something like the interrogation scene [warning: coarse language] on the television program "24," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says think again. Reuters reports that Mohammed’s interrogation will be in compliance with "all international laws and accords."

Discussions - 9 Comments


I’ve been an Army intelligence officer. One thing you have to understand: If you torture a person, they will tell you what you want to hear. Anything he tells you first is false. The best intel we will get from this capture, most immediately useful, is what’s on the computer and the cell phone, etc.

The rest will come as his depression from being captured is used to break his will to resist, and oddly enough, as he starts to identify with his captors. this will take time.

Bottom line: Torture won’t work. Immediate intel is in the computer, laptop, and pager. Real info will take time.

Got it?

As a big fan of "24" I could not help but summon the image of the interrogation of Syed Ali when I read about Mohammed’s capture and interrogation. I have a couple of thoughts/questions:

Popular culture exposes us to a variety of images of interrogation and/or torture on a regular basis these days. These range from psychological interrogation ("24," "The Recruit") to phsyical torture ("The Seige," "Alias") to inducement and persuasion (I’m told that the Demerol scene in a recent episode of "24" was "inspired" by the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah last year). All of this said, just what ARE the "accepted" forms of interrogation? By "accepted," I’m referring less to standards that have been developed by human rights organizations and more to that which yields results, quickly and effectively. Any thoughts on this?

Realizing that torture and interrogation are not synonymous, is torture legal? Are some forms of torture legal?

While the government has insisted that Mohammed’s interrogation will be "humane, legal and aggressive," a number of news sources have pointed out that Mohammed has likely been shipped off to a locale (most likely Afghanistan) where another party could potentially subject him to torture on our behalf. I don’t want to get into a debate as to whether or not Mohammed should be tortured (or to what extent), but is there a moral difference between the U.S. torturing him and some other country torturing him while the U.S. has knowledge of it?

Food for thought...

Incidentally, does anybody else think that the photo of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (the one in his stretched, white t-shirt) bears a striking resemblance to the "time to make the doughnuts" guy?

It is our (US military’s) stated position that we will NOT torture, nor hand over to others who we know will torture. We would not stand by and watch it happen.

Like I said above, it doesn’t work.

The most we do is deprive them of contact with outside references (clocks, radios, music, etc), and use that to disorient them as to the time of day, etc. A few hours or days like this will seem like an eternity to one so incarcerated. There was a Command Sergeant Major (Retired)of the Special Forces on one of the news shows (can’t recall which one--I surf a lot--might have been O’Reilly) last night who did a great job of explaining the process, and what things we will and won’t do.

This CSM (ret) also mentioned that in US military training, it normally takes around two hours of interrogation without torture, by a well-trained interrogator, to start seeing results.

You have to remember how demoralized this guy must be. He was a hero among the Islamofascists until very recently; now he is a captive of the great Satan. Even for one trained to resist interrogation (he can’t be very well-trained for it), this can be used to push him for information.

I thought he looked more like the guy who played Luigi in the Mario Brothers movie.

Kevin apparently mistakes my original post as advocacy for torture. It is not. Rather, the posting was intended to highlight the U.S. policy, and to give a blatant plug for "24," which in my opinion is one of the best television shows running this season.

Nope--I didn’t think that--just wanted folks to understand what interrogation in the real world is!

Mr. Alt wrote:

Rather, the posting was intended to... give a blatant plug for "24," which in my opinion is one of the best television shows running this season.

Agreed. It’s far and away my favorite television program (though, given the state of the television entertainment industry, that’s not saying much). I read last evening that Fox will be bringing it back for a third season next year.

Although this conversation is more or less dead, there is an interesting piece in yesterday’s NY Times ("Questioning Terror Suspects in a Dark and Surreal World")that discusses the methods of interrogation being employed in the questioning of Al Qaeda operatives.

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