Ali Soufan was an FBI supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005 and, together with another FBI agent, the primary interrogator of high ranking Al Quaeda terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, from March to June 2002—before the so-called enhanced techniques were used on Abu Zubaydah in August of that same year.
For seven years, he says, he has been silent about what he knows about the Bush Administration’s torture policies, except in closed Congressional hearings. But with the release of the torture memos Soufan is speaking out.
His Op Ed about “the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques..” is in morning’s New York Times. Reading it is a necessity.
Here are some clips:
One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.
It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.
We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.
There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics…
Interestingly, Soufan says that his CIA colleagues who actually did the torturing, were not in favor of it:
Almost all the agency officials I worked with on these issues were good people who felt as I did about the use of enhanced techniques: it is un-American, ineffective and harmful to our national security.
By the way, Soufin is uniquely equipped to know the importance of interrogation: He was the Arab-speaking FBI agent who journalist Lawrence Wright feels might have stopped the 9/11 plot from occurring if turf wars with the CIA had not gotten in the way.
Also, be sure to read the column in Foreign Policy by Philip Zelikow, the executive director for the 9/11 Commission and a former aide to Condoleezza Rice.