Experienced Interrogators Speak Out

An op-ed in today’s New York Times offers some advice from two seasoned interrogators to the panel established by President Obama’s executive order to investigate America’s interrogation methods. Matthew Alexander worked as an interrogator in the military, and wrote a book last year, “How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.” Steven Kleinman has been an intelligence officer and an interrogator in the Air Force for 25 years and is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve. He also signed on to a series of principles last year at a meeting of 15 interrogators and intelligence experts convened by Human Rights First. These principles are based on the interrogators and intelligence officials’ experiences of what works and what does not in the field: interrogation techniques that do not resort to torture yield more complete and accurate intelligence. They also call for the creation of a well-defined single standard of conduct in interrogation and detention practices across all U.S. agencies. At stake is the loss of critical intelligence and time, as well as the United States’ reputation abroad and its credibility in demanding the humane treatment of captured Americans. In today’s op-ed piece, Alexander and Kleinman expand on these principles, calling for this new panel established by President Obama to include experienced interrogators who will recognize the need to examine longstanding interrogation methods objectively, and should consider creating a research center so that our country can take a more scientific approach to intelligence-gathering:

The panel should consider creating a research center devoted to gathering and analyzing the valuable lessons that interrogators have learned in the course of our current conflicts, establishing a clear and stringent standard of conduct and ethics and building a cadre of skilled interrogators. Researchers at such a center could also evaluate all strategies now used in questioning and identify other methods that are both effective and consistent with our legal and moral traditions.


Published on March 11, 2009


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