CIA Largely in the Dark on Interrogation Tactics

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Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 11:19 pm

<p>In a bucolic field two miles north of Mount Vernon, beside a baseball diamond in Fort Hunt Park, Va., about 20 veterans of a secret World War II intelligence unit gathered together last year for the first time since 1946. The National Park Service was holding a ceremony to commemorate their service. The men, mostly in their eighties, had never before told their stories. During the war, Fort Hunt was a secret interrogation center, where some 4,000 German and Italian military officers, high-ranking government officials and scientists were debriefed. A few years ago, Park Rangers responsible for the area learned of Fort Hunt’s critical intelligence role in recently declassified documents, and they decided to create a memorial and reunite the unit’s veterans. The dedication ceremony was held over two balmy, peaceful days last October.</p>

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<p><img width="165" height="165" class="left" alt="Nationalsecurity.jpg" src="/files/washingtonindependent/testing-icon-with/Nationalsecurity.jpg" /></p>

<p>Col. Steve Kleinman, a U.S. Air Force Reserve interrogator, 50, who had served in Panama and both Iraq wars, was one of the speakers that fall day. In a conversation earlier this month, Kleinman said he was horrified by America’s turn to what Dick Cheney has called <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/vicepresident/news-speeches/speeches/vp20010916.html">&quot;the dark side&quot;</a> in the war on terrorism: indefinite detention in the name of national security, torture in the name of intelligence collection. And so he fought against it. Kleinman joined an effort, sponsored by the Intelligence Science Board — an interagency intelligence-advisory panel — to get the intelligence community to finally renounce torture. His speech at Fort Hunt was a subtle rebuke of the use of torture, comparing the war on terrorism to an earlier era, when interrogators shunned brutality.</p>

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<p>Suddenly, at Fort Hunt that October day, a veteran approached Kleinman. &quot;I never laid a hand on one of my prisoners,&quot; the older man said. &quot;That allowed me to do my job and retain my humanity.&quot; Kleinman was moved. &quot;I thought, when’s the last time I heard an interrogator concerned about that?&quot; he recalled.</p>

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<p>Many interrogators today are, in fact, concerned about that. But the program that developed within the Central Intelligence Agency after 9/11 has left the intelligence community playing a fateful role. Surprising as it may be, the CIA has never really been in the interrogation business. After 9/11, it turned its back on its own limited history of interrogations and never consulted those in the U.S. with solid experience in that difficult art. Even in the seven years since it has built an interrogation capability mostly from scratch, the agency has never applied the best practices in behavioral science to improve its regimen. The result has been to privilege brutality out of ignorance, which, according to many experts and insiders interviewed, means that interrogation practices that produce faulty information are now at the very heart of the U.S. efforts against a mysterious and still-unfamiliar enemy.</p>

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<p>In short, despite innumerable statements from the Bush administration about the value of the CIA’s interrogation program, U.S. interrogators are still mostly in the dark — in the dark not only about al-Qaeda, but about how to effectively elicit vital national-security information from the detainees in its custody.</p>

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<p>Those with intimate knowledge of the program say that in many cases, U.S. interrogators haven’t even been able to learn the basics about many of those they hold or have held, to say nothing of whatever crucial information they possess. &quot;How do you separate the sheep from the wool? There’s no fingerprints, no DNA,&quot; said a former senior intelligence official who helped set up the CIA’s interrogation program, and who would not speak for attribution. &quot;You don’t know if you have Osama bin Laden or Joe Shit the rag-man.&quot;</p>

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<p>Worse than a crime, to paraphrase Tallyrand, interrogation by the CIA has been — and remains — a blunder.</p>

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<p>That, of course, is not how the Bush administration has portrayed the CIA’s interrogations. &quot;This program has been, and remains, one of the most vital tools in our war against the terrorists,&quot; President Bush <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060906-3.html">said</a> in his September 2006 acknowledgment of its existence. In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations a year later, Gen. Michael Hayden, the director of the CIA, said that the intelligence <a href="https://www.cia.gov/news-information/speeches-testimony/2007/general-haydens-remarks-at-the-council-on-foreign-relations.html">produced</a> by the interrogation program &quot;is absolutely irreplaceable.&quot; This month, Hayden’s boss, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/01/21/080121fa_fact_wright">told</a> Lawrence Wright of The New Yorker, &quot;Have we gotten meaningful information [from the program]? You betcha. Tons!&quot;</p>

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<p>Yet, until 9/11, the agency had limited experience with interrogation, and had few people on staff who had even conducted one. Most of the CIA’s experience had involved consulting with partner intelligence agencies on how to torture, sometimes using methods learned from the Nazis, instead of conducting interrogations itself — as demonstrated by the infamous Kubark torture instruction manual of the 1960s.</p>

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<p>Young CIA officers weren’t trained in interrogations. &quot;How to resist torture was the only thing related to interrogation at the training program,&quot; said one former senior official in the Directorate of Operations. &quot;There was no thought, no commentary, or any practicality on how to apply it.&quot; The landmark Church and Pike commissions of the 1970s that examined illegal CIA programs further reinforced the CIA’s impulse to avoid, whenever possible, activity with a high political cost and marginal benefit.</p>

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<p>The exception was one obscure office: the Polygraph Unit in the Administrative Directorate. There, employees — who were not case officers or intelligence analysts — would perform the closest thing to interrogations as existed institutionally in CIA. Usually, the unit’s job was to polygraph officers in the U.S. and abroad as part of the agency’s defense against enemy penetration. Less often, it would vet the agents or defectors that case officers ran. &quot;Very, very few interrogations were done in CIA,&quot; said John Sullivan, who performed an estimated 5,000 polygraph tests in the unit during a 31-year career. &quot;Most of what we did was elicitation. Interrogation involves people who don’t want to give you information. In my case, about 20 percent of my tests involved some form of interrogation.&quot; None of those interrogations involved anything physical or psychological pressure. &quot;I was never aware of any agency employee being involved in torture. Never. And I spent four years in Vietnam,&quot; Sullivan said. &quot;I was disgusted by Abu Ghraib. It broke my heart.&quot;</p>

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<p>But 9/11 changed all that. Despite having nearly no off-the-shelf experience, the CIA was tasked by President Bush to come up with a robust interrogation program for the most important al-Qaeda captives. <span class="pullquote">So the agency turned to its partners for assistance in designing its interrogation regimen: Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia — all countries <a href="http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/">cited</a> by the State Department for using torture — among others.</span> Additionally, as Mark Benjamin has <a href="http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/06/21/cia_sere/">reported</a> for Salon, two psychologists named Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, who worked as contractors for CIA, helped the agency &quot;reverse-engineer&quot; the military and CIA training on resisting torture for use on detainees. Suddenly, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterboarding">waterboarding</a>, an illegal practice of simulating or in some cases inducing drowning, became an American-administered practice.</p>

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<p>Interestingly, one place that the CIA didn’t look for help was the place where interrogations have been performed, lawfully, for decades: the Federal Bureau of Investigation. &quot;In terms of actual interrogations, when you have a suspect in custody, the FBI does that hundreds of times a day, 365 days a year, for 90 years,&quot; said Mike Rolince, who spent over three years as Special Agent in Charge of counterterrorism at the FBI’s Washington field office before retiring in October 2005. &quot;The FBI brought serious credibility and a track record to the table. That said, the U.S. government decided to go about [interrogations] in a different way. The results speak for themselves. I don’t think we need to be where we are.&quot;</p>

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<p>The former senior CIA official disputes that. &quot;I don’t remember them coming to us with help,&quot; the ex-official said. &quot;The FBI has this incredible PR machine, and they started saying after all this happened a lot of stuff like, ‘We could do it, we have great expertise,’ but, again, they’ve suffered from the same [impediments], typically the language thing.&quot;</p>

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<p>The agency’s turn to interrogation was internally controversial. The CIA sought and obtained approval from administration lawyers in the White House and the Justice Dept. in early 2002 for every interrogation technique it used — legal guidance that the White House has since <a href="http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/004568.php">refused to release</a> to Congress. Several CIA officials expected the agency would take the fall if the program ever became public. &quot;We knew that five, 10 years down the road, our people were going to get screwed, like they always do,&quot; the former senior official said. The administration &quot;wanted information, and they don’t give a damn how they get it. They just don’t want dirt on their plate.&quot;</p>

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<p>The former senior official in operations recalled taking his concerns about torture to colleagues at the agency. &quot;I made it clear that I thought it was unwise,&quot; he said. &quot;To a senior level. This was no later than 2003. I am being candid — it’s not like there was an argument. Everyone was like, ‘We got into this goddamn thing, and there was not any choice.’&quot;</p>

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<p>That fear has been realized in the case of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/10/washington/10intel.html?scp=4&amp;sq=&amp;st=nyt">Jose Rodriguez</a>. The same Justice Dept. that repeatedly approved the agency’s interrogation regimen now has a criminal investigation into Rodriguez, a former head of CIA operations, for the 2005 destruction of videotapes recording the brutal interrogations of at least two al-Qaeda members. There is no investigation open into any of the former or currrent administration lawyers, like John Yoo, David Addington or Alberto Gonzales, who approved the torture nor of Bush, who lent it his imprimatur.</p>

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<p>Contained in the program were techniques with a dubious history of success. &quot;It would seem to be a situation where people picked up things on the fly, where one might perhaps impolitely say there was an emphasis on John Wayne movies,&quot; said an intelligence consultant who is trying to overhaul the interrogation program and who would not speak for attribution. &quot;It was not one based on data, not one based on the considerable research on changing people’s behavior, or on behaviorial-science research.&quot;</p>

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<p>Kleinman agrees. &quot;The nation was frankly angry,&quot; he said, emphasizing that he’s speaking for himself and not the Defense Dept. &quot;The psychologists come in, when in fact they don’t know what they’re talking about. There was a lack of understanding of what resistance is all about. It’s designed to cause propaganda, not to get them to tell the truth — what we trained our people to resist.&quot;</p>

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<p>Naturally, the CIA rejects the characterization. &quot;The agency’s terrorist detention and interrogation program has been implemented lawfully, with great care and close review — including within the Executive Branch and oversight from Congress,&quot; CIA spokesman George Little said. &quot;It has produced vital information that has helped our country, and others, disrupt terrorist plots and save innocent lives.&quot;</p>

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<p>The former senior CIA official rejected rejected the idea that behavioral scientists know more about interrogation than interrogators. &quot;Some of these people are like sex experts who know 80 ways to make love but don’t know any girls,&quot; he said.</p>

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<p>What isn’t in dispute is that in many interrogations that the Bush administration has called vital sources of intelligence, brutality was part of the package. Last month, John Kiriakou, who led the CIA team that in 2002 interrogated Abu Zubaydah, then the head of al-Qaeda’s military committee, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/story?id=3978231">told</a> ABC News that his men waterboarded the terrorist. Two years before, ABC reported that around the same time, the CIA and its allies also waterboarded Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, another senior al-Qaeda terrorist, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1322866">Reportedly</a>, the CIA has abandoned the practice, which in 2004 the agency’s inspector general <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/09/politics/09detain.html?_r=1&amp;pagewanted=print&amp;oref=slogin">warned</a> appeared to violate the Geneva Conventions, although Kiriakou — who called it &quot;torture&quot; — said it was necessary to break Abu Zubaydah.</p>

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<p>But what exactly that breaking yielded is the subject of both controversy and obfuscation. Bush has said those interrogations provided &quot;vital information necessary to … protect the American people and our allies.&quot; But FBI agents familiar with the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah have <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/09/politics/09detain.html?_r=1&amp;pagewanted=print&amp;oref=slogin">claimed</a> that the waterboarding was worthless — and that the only valuable information from Abu Zubaydah came from documents captured from him. &quot;He was talking before they did that to him, but they didn’t believe him,&quot; FBI agent Dan Coleman told The Washington Post. &quot;The problem is they didn’t realize he didn’t know all that much.&quot;</p>

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<p>Similarly, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/13/070813fa_fact_mayer">stated</a> at a Guantanamo Bay hearing that he murdered the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi in 2002, though Pakistan has already convicted a terrorist named Omar Saeed Sheikh for the slaying, casting doubt on the information Mohammed gave his interrogators under torture. Perhaps most infamously, al-Libi <a href="http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&amp;STORY=/www/story/06-27-2004/0002200485&amp;EDATE=">told</a> interrogators that al-Qaeda received training in weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein, which never happened. al-Libi recanted his claim in 2004, about a year after Colin L. Powell <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030205-1.html">cited</a> al-Libi’s false, torture-derived information to the United Nations as he made the case for invading Iraq.</p>

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<p>The former senior intelligence official contends that torture is a tricky and subjective category. &quot;Some of this stuff is bizarre,&quot; the ex-official said. &quot;You can’t take a fundamentalist Islamist and put a good-looking nude woman in front of him because it’ll embarrass him and cause him stress. Well, you can put her in front of me.&quot; But this official, who was active at CIA during the interrogations of Zubaydah, al-Libi and the man that the CIA calls &quot;KSM&quot; suggested that their interrogations didn’t provide the intelligence treasure troves that Bush has claimed. &quot;We didn’t have any extraordinary breakthroughs,&quot; he said. &quot;We didn’t know if we had the right people under control, and don’t know if these people didn’t know anything, or we just didn’t have the right skill sets to get it out of them.&quot;</p>

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<p>Also unclear is who exactly conducted the interrogations, and what skill sets they had. Many senior CIA officials were left in the dark. &quot;It was such a compartmented program that even as a division chief I didn’t know,&quot; said Tyler Drumheller, who was European Division chief at CIA’s Directorate of Operations from 2001 to 2005. &quot;I know people don’t believe this, but it was a very compartmentalized program.&quot;</p>

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<p>Intelligence reports that Drumheller saw would only say that information came from &quot;a reliable source,&quot; and did not specify whether interrogations were performed at all. According to a currently serving intelligence analyst, that’s still the case. &quot;It’ll say ‘from a detainee,’&quot; the analyst said. &quot;There’s never any discussion of any techniques used. To be honest, after the whole Abu Ghraib thing, everyone went into apeshit mode. They make sure everything’s on the up and up.&quot; The analyst acknowledged that he’s not in a position to know that for sure, &quot;but I consider it generally trustworthy.&quot;</p>

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<p>Hayden, in his Council on Foreign Relations address, said that CIA interrogators receive 240 hours of training — though he didn’t specify what that training entails. The role of the Polygraph Unit in post-9/11 interrogations is also not known. CIA spokesman Little did not answer a question about whether polygraphers assisted in Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation. On advice from his lawyer, Kiriakou declined to speak for this story. But both the former senior Operations official and Sullivan said that if they were asked to pull experienced interrogators off CIA’s bench in a pinch after 9/11, the Unit is where they’d turn. &quot;If you’re looking for interrogators, that’s where you’d go,&quot; Sullivan said. &quot;That’s what we did for a living.&quot;</p>

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<p>The former senior Operations official speculated that the agency might have turned to the military’s Special-Forces community for assistance. &quot;You detail,&quot; he explained. &quot;You call [the Department of Defense] and say, ‘Gimme 50 Green Berets,’ and they put on civilian clothes.&quot;</p>

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<p>The question of what the administration calls &quot;enhanced interrogation techniques&quot; have actually gained the U.S. continues to roil many at Langley. Around 2005, members of both civilian and military intelligence agencies asked the Intelligence Science Board to conduct a study about the current state of scientific knowledge relevant to interrogations. The resulting multi-volume study, <a href="http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/2007/01/011607.html">&quot;Educing Information,&quot;</a> was published in December 2006. It’s practically a cri de coeur against torture, urging intelligence agencies instead to rely on non-physical, non-coercive techniques like building rapports with detainees — much like the FBI does, and much like what worked 60 years ago at places like Fort Hunt against hardened, sadistic Nazi officers. &quot;We tried to write it very carefully,&quot; said one of its authors, who asked for anonymity as to not alienate the intelligence community. &quot;We used terms like ‘we’ve been unable to find’ [that torture works] or ‘this looks promising.’&quot; A subsequent volume is due out, perhaps later this year.</p>

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<p>Few involved with the project have direct knowledge of interrogations, but most are highly skeptical of claims made by the Bush administration that the brutal interrogations have yielded valuable information. &quot;Look at George Tenet’s book,&quot; said one. &quot;He says, it would have been good if we stopped 9/11 and we blew it on WMD, but we got good info from KSM. Well, I read it. He’s not gonna say we went oh-for-three.</p>

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<p>&quot;But even if we did [get solid information from torture],&quot; he continued, &quot;we don’t have a basis for knowing that. Look at the language choice: ‘break.’ If I break someone, how do we know if he told us everything? Does that fit in with human experience? It doesn’t fit in with my experience. Even the notion of breaking someone, it doesn’t connect, though its a pop-culture stereotype out there. A subject is responding to questions, but they have very important information they never offer up because you didn’t ask the right questions, and because you ‘broke’ them.&quot;<br />

An assistant to Tenet’s spokeswoman at his publisher, HarperCollins, said the former CIA director is no longer granting interviews.</p>

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<p>Nearly seven years after 9/11, the Intelligence Science Board finds CIA interrogations are still on a poor footing. The legacy of torture will be with the U.S. in myriad ways for a long time: perhaps through a prosecution of Rodriguez, or even interrogators themselves; perhaps through innocent Iraqis tortured by U.S. officials who then become terrorists and seek revenge; perhaps through its effect on interrogators themselves. &quot;You don’t torture people and lead a normal life afterwards,&quot; the former senior Operations official said.</p>

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<p>What’s more, there is no consensus on how long it will take the agency to right itself. Asked if CIA interrogations have grown more sophisticated in the year since the Intelligence Science Board report came out, one of its authors said, &quot;I don’t know.&quot;</p>

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<p>Kleinman, who brought the influence of Fort Hunt and the history of successful, non-coercive interrogations to bear on the report, said he doesn’t have a good sense whether the intelligence community realizes how little it still knows about interrogation. &quot;Not to be flippant,&quot; he said, &quot;but my best guess is that [fixing interrogations] will take somewhere between six months and 1000 years. It doesn’t seem like anyone has their hair on fire to really solve this.&quot;</p>

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Categories & Tags: National Security| Torture| U.S.|

Comments

57 Comments

tigerteam
Comment posted February 9, 2008 @ 1:04 am

To those that read this particular article—this is a telling comment from John Robb who has been psuhing the concept of Open Source Warfare as a core element as to why the speed factor in the Iraq insurgency occurred and why the Army did not see it coming. The comment that the Army is both fighting the insurgency and leading the counter insurgency fight should wake a few people up but I doubt it will.

Thursday, 07 February 2008

OPEN SOURCE COUNTER-INSURGENCY?

What’s left (as an option for the US in Iraq)? It’s possible, as Microsoft has found, that there is no good monopolistic solution to a mature open-source effort. In that case, the United States might be better off adopting IBM’s embrace of open source. This solution would require renouncing the state’s monopoly on violence by using (Shiite and Kurdish) militias as a counterinsurgency.

John Robb, October 2005, in a New York Times Op-Ed. (if you add Sunni militias to the mix, a gross oversight on my part but implied in the approach, it is spot-on analysis).

The Sunni Tribal Awakening (rather than "the surge") has radically slowed violence in Iraq by bringing it back to the levels of activity seen in 2005. That’s a good thing, but the Awakening has been wrongly attributed to a new (resurrected) counter-insurgency doctrine (COIN). Here’s why. The main objective of United States COIN doctrine is to enhance/extend the sovereignty and legitimacy of the host nation. Everything that is done is slaved to this top level goal. Unfortunately, the development of legitimacy is a long and slow process that takes decades of effort (if it can be accomplished at all). In contrast, everything about the Tribal Awakening is diametrically opposed to this. It arms and trains militias and groups that aren’t loyal to the host nation and thereby diminishes the host nation’s legitimacy by undercutting its monopoly on violence and its control over sovereign territory.

What did happen with the Awakening, and the speed of the transition should be a clue to this, is that the US military opportunistically embraced the insurgency (in a move akin to IBMs embrace of open source development in the 90′s). This embrace showered autonomy, weapons, money ($300 per month x 60,000 participants), protection (from Shiite militias and the Iraqi government), and training on insurgent groups. By doing so, it replaced the ISI (Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda affiliate) as the leading participant in the insurgency. The only "cost" to these insurgent groups, which were under extreme pressure from Shiite militias due to overreaching by the ISI, was to sacrifice the ISI. They rapidly complied.

Where this goes from here is problematic since (and I say this to get you thinking and not to shock you) the US is now leading both the insurgency and the counter-insurgency in Iraq.


declineandfall
Comment posted February 5, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

Clint,

I’ve spent way too much time in the GWOT to believe those numbers are an actual reflection of support for militant jihad. The VAST majority of the "jihadists" I have met and interrogated were not particularly religious–no more so than the average non-radical muslim–but they were politically disenfranchised. In the dictatorships of the Middle East, there is no viable political resistance. The Mubareks and Assads and Husseins (to bring in Richard’s conjecture about Saddam’s Salafi problem) simply won’t allow political opposition to grow. Which leaves religion as the only outlet for the frustrated poor and powerless. Scratch a jihadist and you’ll find a garden-variety revolutionary. So I don’t believe for a second that those big, scary hoardes of Muslim soldiers marching off to war.

I especially don’t see the logic of thinking that Putin, Ahmedinejad and Chavez are going to join forces to wage war against China. Did I misunderstand what you were saying?

To get to what I think was your main point, I never said that high-tech listening devices aren’t crucial to the national security. I merely said that increased spending on technology solutions drove the mission in ways that were counterproductive to the HUMINT mission. So enamored was our intel service of their technology, in fact, that we had <i>nobody</i> on the ground feeding us information from Saddam’s Iraq. That’s my conjecture as to how the CIA lost the ability to tell good interrogation methods from bad: they were too busy playing with their expensive toys to remember how to do the more stone-age stuff.


clint
Comment posted February 4, 2008 @ 11:56 pm

Sean
Per your comment "but new high-tech listening devices generate lots of revenue."
With US population at around 5% to 6% of the worlds population, an estimated 1.2 billion Muslims and 1% (equals 12,000,000) embracing the Jihadist philosophy with 20% of that Muslim population willing to support a Jihadist -what do you purpose as the combat multipliers. Even excluding the potential of a Chinese conflict with the Ruskies, Iran, and Hugo C. as partners in that effort. It seems to me that you avoid the obvious necessity for combat/Intel multipliers, the lack thereof creating the issue of multiple deployments to support the war on terror.. The efficient management of and interfacing those high-tech listening devices with human resources seems to be the necessary method/tact to pursue. The past inclination was to only depend on these resources but/is the CIA so hamstrung or without a mission intent for how long to enable this efficient method… My personal issue with some of the modern combat multipliers is that they enabled a process that removed from the trigger puller too much of the decision to pull the trigger..


tigerteam
Comment posted February 4, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

Sean—will shift to your email for the other documents—will send them over the coming week or so. Sorry for not responding by have been busy writing templates.

The development speed that the insurgency had from the year 2003 to mid 2005 is an interesting one. Just how could relatively untrained, and seemingly disconnected groups of fighters be able to actually take on the only superpower left in an organized way.

I spoke with a Sunni fighter (cell leader) that we captured in late December 2005 who had been wearing a blast belt and who claimed that he had actually been recruited by an IIS officer into a Salafi movement in late 1996 in Amarra. They had prayed regularly (no hint of jihad) until the US arrived and then their conversations before and after prayer turned to jihad. The IIS officer had been based in Amarra and then with the US arrival he disappears to Baghdad but maintains close ties to the cell leader and still comes on occassions after 2003 to pray in Amarra. Then he calls in mid 2005 to see if the cell leader was ready to conduct jihad– the cell leader immediately answers the call and is into the fight after a two week indoctrination period with 30 others in Baghdad.

I would suggest that in fact Saddam and the IIS knew of and had a serious internal Salafi movement problem that we knew nothing about prior to 2003–probably a spin off of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Iraq. I would further suggest that the very same IIS officers who were tasked to watch the Salafi movement are the same ones who later setup the various insurgent groups and were the driving force behind the various groups thus shortening the lead time needed to launch an organized full blown insurgency.

The US military in Iraq spends way to much time focused on al Qaida and not the Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI) which has historically spun off six different Sunni insurgent groups and was in fact founded by former IIS officers and Iraqi Army officers.

Couple the existence of well organized small groups that had learned to survive in the underground being hunted by the IIs to the concept of "open source warfare" then the critical mass is reached far faster than ever thought possible in the realm of unconventional warfare.

If you are interersted in the concept of "open source warfare" as the key in the evoluntionary speed of the Iraqi insurgency here is an interesting link run by John robb who has written the Brave New War.

http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/


clint
Comment posted February 4, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

Sean, R Paul, and Richard
Good discussion. I am elated to discover there really are healthy intellectual discussions seeking battlefield solutions. Glad someone is discussing the battle (including intel gathering) everywhere unlike the early pundits comments who believe and implied that the only battle is with the politicos here in the US and only with Bush. Most of your tactical issues are the result of countless years of complacency exacerbated by the DC retreat from difficult discussions seeking real solutions for real places/events. Thanks for serving. Stay safe..


declineandfall
Comment posted February 3, 2008 @ 5:34 am

I’m not sure I follow you here. My take is that we’re not in Phase Three (Conventional Military Tactics) and never have been, which is to say that the Iraqi insurgents (and the Jihadists in general) aren’t following Mao’s doctrine too closely. Mao himself acknowledged that slipping between the three phases was likely to occur, so even he didn’t see his plan all that strictly.

If you’re asking why the insurgency is so popular or has so many adherents, I’d venture to guess that’s because they don’t want an outside country, especially us, running their country for them.

If you’re asking how they got so powerful so fast, I’d cite the general speeding-up of change in the world and increased access to newer, deadlier technologies. Nothing takes as long as it used to, it seems.

I’m curious what your simple answer is; this was just me trying to guess.

Please send along your articles — seannelson, gmail, you know where to put the periods and funny symbols. We’ll continue this discussion elsewhere.


tigerteam
Comment posted February 2, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

Sean—here is something to think about while you are there.

If Mao is the theorist behind the three phase insurgency concept-just how did we go from a phase one in 2003 to a full blown phase three in mid 2005 when Mao himself envisioned the phase three itself taking upwards of 10-15 years to develop?

The answer is actually simple it is just that we still today are not willing to see the answer.

It goes to the heart of how the insurgency is able to evolve their TTPs so fast.


tigerteam
Comment posted February 2, 2008 @ 12:17 pm

Sean—then stay safe for the remaining time there—I have about several more trips to Iraq and a handfull of rotations then it is off to southern France where I can finally forget COIN after 40 plus years.

Just finished up my book Drinkiing Tea in Iraq-War of Perception and have finished the Sprial Questioning Article for CALL with one to follow on Tactical Questioning. Will send you the electronic copies if you are interested—it summarizaes alot of what we had spoken about over the last few years.

Have a number of articles in the pipeline concerning the global Salafi movement and the global jihad coming out in the next few months on a global security site that has a large number of influencers.

Stay safe—-


declineandfall
Comment posted February 2, 2008 @ 2:32 am

Richard,

I didn’t know that the Army had abandoned rapport in favor of letting the ISF do it from now on, but that doesn’t surprise me. The military is really good at taking the easy way out when what is required isn’t technology but competence. I doubt they’ll ever teach spiral questioning–given the acumen of most of the instructors at Ft. H I’ve known, I don’t think there’s enough institutional knowledge to make it doctrine.

Of course one of the major roadblocks to ensuring that the Army is well-versed in 4G warfare is the fact that they’re just not as picky about recruiting as they used to be, nor are they as picky about who gets into certain career fields. So just when what we need is smarter soldiers, we’re dumbing down the force. This is true everywhere, but the situation in HUMINT is more dire, because we’ve always needed the interrogators to be smarter than the average bear.

I agree withn you about the additional troops thing, but I wonder how much of the decline in violence wasn’t due to the ethnic cleansing actually having worked? Any way you slice it, mass slaughter eventually results in something calmer than what was there before. Maybe we just hung around while they finished. It’s a grisly thought, but worth pondering. (No idea where it is online, but a historical comparison of the ethnic/sectarian map of Baghdad supports this theory.)

As for Diyala, yes, it’s important, and yes, QJBR hangs their hat there, but that’s because they’re not hanging their hat in Fallujah, Ramadi or Al Qaim anymore. I submit that the battle has always been over Baghdad, and that the Shia have won. Which is not to say that the Sunni will just roll over, but the Iraqi state is in the hands of the Shia. (We gave it to them, incidentally, but that’s not quite germane here.) The fact that QJBR is operating much more in Diyala than they were (I covered Diyala and Salahadin at the Div level back in 2004-early 2005) just means that they don’t get to operate in Baghdad as much as they would like. Focusing too closely on QJBR ignores the Shia elephant in the room, which is exactly what we did for the first 3 or so years of this war.

I’m in Fallujah, but I travel a lot and I’m only working tangentially with HUMINT these days. I plan to leave the military contracting biz for good in a month–grad school in ME Studies is calling.


tigerteam
Comment posted February 1, 2008 @ 11:23 pm

Sean—could give you an equally long email on why the Marines are ahead of the Army in COIN—maybe they learned some important lessons during Fulluja 1 and 2 and Ramadi 1 and 2. Could be they learned that the insurgency was just as good at counter sniper and hunting down Marine sniper teams. Maybe they learned to understand the deep Anbar tribal culture for which a US Army LTC who became the world’s leading SME on Anbar Tribal culure could never get promoted past LTC due to his years of intensive research which are still not part an parcel of USA tribal culture training (many did not like his messaging).

Key though was their shift to company level operations—the theoritical debate had been lead by a retired USMC LTC Michael Poole with his books on Battle Tactics of the Cresent Moon–or the theories put forth by another USMC retired LTC on 4G warfare. The theoritical debate has taken most of their rotations in Iraq to get correct—but they rotate every 7 months not 12 or now 15 months on the USA side so maybe it is easier to discuss and decide if one is not gone for a total of 39 months out of 56.


tigerteam
Comment posted February 1, 2008 @ 11:09 pm

Sean—good to see that you are back into the fight at Fulluja-hope things have changed there a bit from 2005–to answer some of your questions.

I have had the opportunity to observe the MI effort for 16 BCT rotations and everything that you and I ever complained about at Ft. H is still going on in Humint and MI with no improvement. Still hundreds of young interrogators coming out of Ft. H with little or no understanding of 1) what the heck is a phase three insurgency or war of movement or what are the insurgency battle tactics or how many insurgents are on a mortar team and what are their functions during an attack or what is a swarm attack, 2) or what the heck is spiral questioning and let’s not tell them about it because they are to young and inexperienced to handle it and 3) let’s not teach it to the combat arms as a way of lowering the over all number of detainees as we are at what number in the TF 134 system–33, 34 or 35K which is up from the number of 13K prior to the surge. And by the way the concept of JUMPs does not get it and is a total failure, but what the heck let’s continue to teach it anyway because someday we might be fight a HIC not LIC.

Oh by the way the EAIT side finally opened up some class seats for BCT interrogators—it does make a difference—spiral questioning the Tiger Team concept is what they take back with them as the two most important things they learned there.

Reference the Marines—they have undergone their own long internal discusssion of driving all COIN combat operations in an insurgency environment at the company level with the company being the tip of the spear, the spear itself and the thrower of the spear. Try to bring that conversation to a BCT Cmdr at the O6 level. I have spent the better part of a year in getting via straight personal influence and based on my long years of experience a total of seven BCTs to devolve MI to the company level and the message is taking hold. The Ft. H solution is 260M dollars and the first gradute of the IST concept is FY11–does not help the BCTs going now in the least bit.

The concept of teaching spiral questioning which you know all to well yourself— Ft. H does not like me teaching it to the combat arms-why because the standard answer is that it is a difficult concept for young soldiers to grasp, but quess what they get it in a big way and the 3 ID has been using it well in southern Baghdad.

Rapport building may have been a thing in 2004 and 2005, but it disappeared from all BCTs in 2006 and 2007 because we were to be transitioning Iraq to the ISF so why did we need it— until the surge BCTs got there it had all but disappeared.

The additional troops had two impacts that are vastly underdiscussed 1) they provided a limiting factor on the unimpeded movement of the insurgency groups—which until the surge came they could move at will—it is harder now to dodge the countless TCPs and flash TCPs and 2)they allowed a certain amount of "balanced" fairness in keeping the Sunni and Shiite apart in basically what was Shiite cleansing of all Sunni districts in Baghdad in the drive to make Baghdad the capital of a democratically elected Shiite State.

The fight is not in Baghdad, nor Fulluja or Ramadi—it has been and always will be in Diyala Provence especially Baqubah which is the stated capital of the ISI and QJBR. So goes Diyala so goes the war—after countless largescale 10K plus operations in Diyala (in 2007 and 08) and it is still not under control.

Sean-good to hear from you, stay safe, will be in country for a Humint visit in the coming months-let me know where you are exactly.


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Comment posted February 1, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

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declineandfall
Comment posted February 1, 2008 @ 5:28 am

Richard,

You’ve brought up too many points to deal with effectively, so I’m going to focus on two of them: your contention that rapport building is a surge "byproduct" and your misunderstanding regarding engagement & reconciliation.

You are simply mistaken to say that "not a single soldier nor a single BCT ever attempted to use rapport in the desert" prior to the surge. I certainly did in 2004-2005, and I know that many of my colleagues did as well. You were one of them, for God’s sake. Just because the BCTs were taught rapport-building before coming out here (I’m in Fallujah now) doesn’t mean that they weren’t taught it before. I know this because I was one of the many who taught them. I recall seeing your face in some of those classes and around those halls during that period as well. For all I know you disagreed with the manner in which we taught rapport-building, but we did it, almost to the point of overkill if you ask some students. Reporting back from the field, those students cited our schoolhouse emphasis on rapport building, particularly the long-term approach strategy, as crucial to their success. And this all happened back when the Administration was tarring and feathering people who suggested our pre-surge troop levels were insufficient.

As for Engagement & Reconciliation–first, who said we "forced" anyone into the Awakening movement? I certainly didn’t, and I don’t see what it would have had to do with anything had I said it. Second, of course they are rebuilding their organizations. I think we’re in agreement on the potential for a lull in the fighting to benefit all sides in their efforts to rebuild, and QJBR is indeed making more noise lately.

But to get to my earlier point about the E&R, and not the surge, being responsible for the turn to rapport-building, could you please then explain to me why the Marines have employed rapport-building as a central component of their HUMINT strategy? No Marines ever "surged," that was all an Army thing. The crucial switch happened when some of us realized that this was an insurgency and that the only battle worth fighting for was the battle for hearts and minds. The surge was just extra people.


tigerteam
Comment posted January 31, 2008 @ 5:19 pm

Rapport building was in fact a surge by product as it was being taught to the surge BCTs extensively both during LTP and in the desert in intensive sessions prior to the troops hitting the desert rotations.

As the trigger pullers while understanding maybe the high side of the concept pulled into their JSSs and COPs in Iraq and were running their 5 day dismounted patrols the concept seemed to take off on it’s own. Coupled with a new form of cultural training not seen in the rest of the CTCs or for that matter Ft. H we have in fact been able to send BCTs into Iraq that are performing at a level which has caused the IRC to recently voice their wonder at the sudden shift in the Army—we have seen a definite improvement in EOF incidents and in detainee handling causing the IRC to wonder just what we changed.

Our surge BCTs now understand what wearing sunglasses while speaking with Iraqi’s now culturally means or that there are deep cultural items that have to be respected even during detainee operations that affect the overall Iraqi perspectives of Americans. They now understand that the concept of Iraqi silence was getting them killed-once they understood that everything else fell into place.

HUMINT still has not taken off for a long number of reasons-internal to the MI as a whole and issues out of Ft. H. We still are facing the massive belief that hey if we can just throw more technology and more analysis at the problem and everything will work.

Regardless of what one thinks or for that matter does not think of the surge–we have a massive increase of Iraqi’s willing to talk to us for the first time in 5 years which is in fact point 8 of the MNF-I Patreaus letter. Get the Iraqi’s off the fence.

We are still struggling to get BCTs to understand point 5 of his MNF-I letter which is that all intel is driven bottom up not top down which is where most of the technology being fielded today is sitting.

A bulk of the successes which are in fact there are being driven by rapport building with both the local Sunni and Shiite sides and a solid amount of long hours at what I would call "community policing".

Again based on long conversations with the surge BCTs they are rating rapport building as the single key to a lot of their captures and the calming of their JSS neighborhoods.

As to the Engagement and Reconciliation side of the problem—we did not force anyone into the "awakening" movement—think about it the Sunni insurgency was by mid 2007 fighting a three front war—1) with us, 2) with QJBR, and 3) with the Shiite militias. If you are a Sunni fighter offered 300USD to patrol your area to keep it quiet and you are the problem then in fact your neighborhood is going to be quiet and you can sleep at night knowing you will not be raided by the US. Secondly you can rebuild your own organization knowing the final Shiite fight is coming and lastly if QJBR is not having the perception that they "won" the war then you will not have to send your fighters to Afghanistan or Algeria as a "blood debt" payment for their winning your war.

There are solid recent developments that in fact the surge phase has allowed for a total reconstituion of all Sunni insurgent groups and in fact the battle tempo is slowly but steadily climbing again. QJBR is again in full IO glory on the jihadi websites and a recent battle video that was released was lead off by QJBR and as the last insurgent group on the video IAI-now what does that say.

But to get back to the rapport building comments—from Oct 2007 through to the initial surge BCTs in March not a single soldier nor a single BCT ever attempted to use rapport in the desert. Again only after extensive training and deep cultural training –rapport is understood by even the junior LT as the inherent part of every conversation they carry out with Iraqi’s—what we refer to as the Love Bank and is the corner stone to the COIN COG process.


declineandfall
Comment posted January 31, 2008 @ 11:46 am

"This whole debate has sidetracked the one main concept that has come out of the Iraq


tigerteam
Comment posted January 30, 2008 @ 9:30 pm

Concerning SAVAK—ask any Iranian student studying in Germany at the height of the Shahs’ rule what they thought of SAVAK. While SAVAK was well known in European political circles there was little or no reporting on them here in the US during the same timeframe.

The irony of SAVAK was that for some strange reason they overlooked a little known Shiite Mullah during his Friday prayers in Paris, France. Even the CIA somehow felt that this particular Mullah was not a threat to Iran and for that we can thank the CIA for getting into the current Iranian mess.

Even the Europeans knew that the CIA was training their little brother and that torture was in play then with reports that CIA operatives were at least watching key SAVAK "interviews" with Iranian dissidents.


tigerteam
Comment posted January 30, 2008 @ 9:15 pm

To all–what is getting lost in the debate is that torture gets one absolutely nowhere on the Humint side of the house. In the world of Humint collection and all source fusion it is amazing to stop and think that after a waterboarding session the CIA interrogator would even trust the gained information unless confirmed by other sources.

So if they had other sources of information why turn to waterboarding?

This whole debate has sidetracked the one main concept that has come out of the Iraq "surge"—a new style of tactical questioning that educes information via rapport building. Nothing fancy but for those that understand this field the term cognitive dissonance is the key and this is where the CIA always goes astray.

To drive cognitive dissonance one has to understand the culture of the individual and we Americans tend to not want to do that as it takes to much time or we simply do not know the culture or we feel that knowing the culture makes you one of the "enemy".

We are in a few more weeks into the fifth year of the Iraq war and I sense that even after five years the intel community still does not understand the global Sunni jihad.

For those that really want to gain some insight into a number of interesting items that get little or no coverage checkout the book Brave New War.


declineandfall
Comment posted January 29, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

Ed:

The thing is, the intelligence community has been in a frenzy over new technologies for years, to the detriment of its HUMINT programs. (A lot of that has to do with contracting: Northrup Grumman doesn’t make a killing on programs involving mere people; but new high-tech listening devices generate lots of revenue. The agencies then set their priorities based partially on what they spend their money on, and HUMINT gets pushed further down the list of priorities.) Everyone thinking they know how to interrogate helps push it down the list as well.

I probably should have written that I don’t believe that no one asked the Israelis, et al about interrogation. But with even a basic institutional knowledge the CIA would have been able to see past the sexiness of breaking the law for the good of the many. The fact that they didn’t tells me that they weren’t real interested in interrogations prior to getting the order to start conducting them.

I should also caveat that with the acknowledgement that they did conduct a lot of debriefings during the cold war, but a debriefing is a radically different animal than an interrogation, something that interrogators know but debriefers quite often don’t. As someone who has lived in both of those worlds, I’ve seen that phenomenon a lot.


spencer_ackerman
Comment posted January 29, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

Richard, feel like dropping me a line at sackerman-at-washingtonindependent-dot-com?


checker
Comment posted January 29, 2008 @ 11:56 am

Sean:

Appreciate your comments. However I find it hard to believe the CIA had no interrogation program, official or otherwise, prior to the years before 9/11, and would find it easier to believe the CIA advised Egypt and Saudi Arabia on interrogation methods rather than what the article suggested. I believe Isreal would support that opinion since they themselves are a benefactor of certain CIA interrogation methods. Or am I presumptious to think that is also common knowledge?

The sad irony of the waterboarding issue, or any discussion of torture, is that it is an issue. And as AJ Hill expressed, we will pay for this for a very long time indeed.

Ed


declineandfall
Comment posted January 29, 2008 @ 7:18 am

Ed,

The SAVAK stuff is unfortunately not common knowledge.

I think the point is not that the CIA had never known of this sort of thing, it’s that they hadn’t, as an agency, had an actual interrogation program for years before 9/11.

I doubt that their use torture as an interrogation technique was as influenced by their consultation with Egypt, et al as this article suggests. The fact is that everyone who has ever seen a movie where the interrogator "does what has to be done" thinks they know what they’re doing. I’ve been an interrogator for almost 15 years, and I would say that a good 50% of the people I meet who learn that about me immediately imagine they know how I do my job. I’ve seen many, many completely untrained people go into the booth or offer their two cents, and that advice is always, EVERY TIME, to get vicious.

These CIA agents were given the green light to do anything they wanted, and they licked their lips at the opportunity to play vigilante. They knew they could do some research into best methods, but that isn’t nearly as fun as shaking your head as you lament that "desperate times call for desperate measures," is it?


ajhil
Comment posted January 29, 2008 @ 5:34 am

One of the most amazing things about the current administration is how quickly and thoroughly one man has been able to imbue an entire government with his own characteristic ignorance, incompetence, and disregard for the truth. With the help of a complicit media, it’s likely that George W. Bush will escape prosecution for the crimes that have been committed on his order. Without the purgative of a Nuremberg style hearing, we as a nation will be tarred with those crimes long after Bush himself has faded into well deserved obscurity.


checker
Comment posted January 28, 2008 @ 11:49 pm

Sorry about that link. Try this…

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=8310


checker
Comment posted January 28, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

I find the idea that the CIA knew so little about torture that they turned to Egypt, Saudia Arabia, et al, to learn torture methods to be totally baseless. I refer you to:

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=8310

…whereby the CIA trained SAVAK agents of the Shah of Iran on torture methods they themselves learned from the Nazis. I thought this was common knowledge. You don’t suppose whatever methods were presented to the SAVAK agents 30 years ago have since been improved and refined, do you? Maybe something worse than waterboarding?

I suspect the CIA and the Bush administration are at this point willing to try anything to divert attention and cause confusion as to what the truth is. No Tenet interviews? Who’d a thunk it.


jrjohnryanjr
Comment posted January 28, 2008 @ 11:11 pm

Torture DOES work.
During the Middle Ages Christendom was only saved from Satanic witchcraft by its use.
Through torture, witches would not only confess but also identify other witches including the most difficult to find "sleeper witches".


tigerteam
Comment posted January 28, 2008 @ 9:54 pm

This is an interesting article as the Intelligence Science Board’s recommendations were first presented to Congress and then to the Ft. Hauchuca Intelligence Training Center in 2007. There has been no attempt on the part of the Ft. H Interrogator Training Center to incorporate those recommendations.

There is though a questioning technique called spiral questioning that if used as the basis for interrogations or tactical questioning goes to the heart of the "educing information" concepts presented by the ISB. This concept was originally developed in the early 70s and used daily at the Joint Refugee Operations Center Berling with great success—and never once do you have to use force or the threat of force.

I have used it extensively at Abu Ghraib and in Diyala in 2005 and 2006 and the results as the young generation says were "massive" when compared to a young Army trained interrogator relying on the school house doctrine.

I was taught years ago and still teach two things 1) treat detainees the way you would want to be treated in the same situation, and 2) rapport, rapport, rapport.

We older generation interrogators take our jobs seriously— the issues of Abu Ghraib and the CIA black interrogation centers has damaged the US and interrogators in the eyes of the Muslim world to such a degree that our jobs are now 20 times harder. Even the CIA new generation interrogators in Iraq are no comparison to even young Army interrogators just out of school.

Perception is everything—the CIA never got it nor will they ever get it.

Kleinman is correct no one really wants "educing information" as the new generational form of interrogation—there are to many defense dollars going to several key defense contractors who if they had to change to the "educing information" concept would be out of a job as it is easy to teach and highly effective. Retired DEA and ATFE agents after being show the concept of spiral questioning were totally surprised and stated that was in fact what they had been doing for years, but did not know the name for the technique.

When you are an interrogator in Iraq you are in fact the defense lawyer, judge, jury, and DA all roled into one person—humanity is the only thing you have hold on to if you are true to yourself and want to see yourself in the mirror in the mornings.


radlib1
Comment posted January 28, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

Very good, informational post. It again shows that the Bush-Cheney Administration doesn’t know shit about anything — except where the oil is. These torture clowns should be put up before an International War Tribunal — not only for their crimes, but also for their stupidity.


fredw
Comment posted January 28, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

There is at least one other part of the federal government that has experience with interrogations: I was an interrogator for the US Army in Vienam. The army intrrogation course in 1969 emphasized that we did not use coercive techniques because 1) they produce very poor quality information and 2) a surprising portion of prople can’t be broken that way. We didn’t believe it and argued with the instructors over "real life" practices. But a year’s experience with prisoners convinced me that my instructors told the truth. I had the (appalling) experience of trying to get information from someone who had previously been beaten for it. Unless you know the exact right question and you know that he knows the answer, that is pretty near hopeless. He is so focused on not going through that again that you can’t get any sort of spontaeity or consideration from him.

As for the term "broken", it does not mean physically broken. It is a technical term that just means that you have overcome his resistance. This usually just means that you asked some questions, he answered, and you got a conversation going. Getting a conversation going is about 90% of the trick. You have all the advantages and can take the discussion where you want it. Lies are easier to detect than you would think. Failure is not getting lied to so much as not getting responses.


dusty1215
Comment posted January 28, 2008 @ 11:06 am

I have never heard or read, anyone making a good case for torture. Evidently this point is lost on the employees of BushCo?


anderson
Comment posted January 28, 2008 @ 9:14 am

"But FBI agents familiar with the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah have claimed that the waterboarding was worthless


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