Soufan on the ineffectiveness of torture


in Bombs and rockets, Politics, Psychology, Security

After [redacted by the CIA] left, Boris had to keep introducing harsher and harsher methods, because Abu Zubaydah and other terrorists were trained to resist them. In a democracy such as ours, there is a glass ceiling on harsh techniques that the interrogator cannot breach, so a detainee can eventually call the interrogator’s bluff. And that’s what Abu Zubaydah did.

This is why the EIT [Enhanced Interrogation Technique] proponents later had to order Abu Zubaydah to be waterboarded again, and again, and again—at least eighty-three times, reportedly. The techniques were in many ways a self-fulfilling prophecy, ensuring that harsher and harsher ones were introduced.

Cruel interrogation techniques not only serve to reinforce what a terrorist has been prepared to expect if captured; they give him a greater sense of control and predictability about his experience, and strengthen his resistance. By contrast, the interrogation strategy that [redacted] employed—engaging and outwitting the terrorist—confuses him and leads him to cooperate. The art of interview and interrogation is a science, a behavioural science, and [redacted] were successful precisely because we had it down to a science.

Evidence gained from torture is unreliable. There is no way to know whether the detainee is being truthful, or just speaking to either mitigate his discomfort or to deliberately provide false information. Indeed, as KSM, who was subjected to the enhanced techniques, later told the Red Cross: “During the harshest period of my interrogation I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop”.

Soufan, Ali H. The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda. 2011. p. 423

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