Interrogators Decry Glorification of Torture’s Role in Killing of Bin Laden

“Torture Did Not Lead the U.S. to bin Laden, It Almost Certainly Prolonged the Hunt.”

New York, NY — Nine leading interrogators and intelligence officials, who issued a joint statement today sharply critical of the notion that torture played a key role in leading U.S. forces to bin Laden, are available for interview.

Instead, the signers argue, “The use of waterboarding and other so-called ‘enhanced’ interrogation techniques almost certainly prolonged the hunt for Bin Laden and complicated the jobs of professional U.S. interrogators who were trying to develop useful information.” The full statement follows below.

Matthew Alexander, Colonel (ret.) Stuart A. Herrington, Joe Navarro, Ken Robinson, Buck Revell, Mark Fallon, Torin Nelson, Steven Kleinman and Jack Cloonan are members of an ad hoc working group of former high-ranking interrogation and intelligence officials who have devised a set of principles to guide effective interrogation practices and have advocated for its adoption across U.S. agencies. Brief bios of each signer follow this release.

Full text of statement:

Torture Did Not Lead the U.S. to bin Laden, It Almost Certainly Prolonged the Hunt

We are concerned about the suggestion by some that the use of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques led U.S. forces to Osama bin Laden’s compound.

The use of waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced” interrogation techniques almost certainly prolonged the hunt for Bin Laden and complicated the jobs of professional U.S. interrogators who were trying to develop useful information from unwilling sources like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Reports say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraq al-Libi did not divulge the nom de guerre of a courier during torture, but rather several months later, when they were questioned by interrogators who did not use abusive techniques.

This is not surprising. Our experience is that torture is a poor way to develop useful, accurate information.

We know from experience that it is very difficult to elicit information from a detainee who has been abused. The abuse often only strengthens their resolve and makes it that much harder for an interrogator to find a way to elicit useful information.

We believe that the U.S. would have learned more from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other high value detainees if, from the beginning, professional interrogators had a chance to question them using the sophisticated, yet humane, approaches approved by U.S. law.

We are convinced that the record shows that abusive questioning techniques did not help, but only hindered, the United States’ efforts to find bin Laden.


Matthew Alexander

Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym) has spent more than 18 years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves. He personally conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised more than a thousand. Alexander was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievements in Iraq, including leading the team of interrogators that located Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was subsequently killed in an airstrike. Alexander has conducted missions in over 30 countries, has two advanced degrees, and speaks three languages. He is the author of How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq (Free Press, 2008) and Kill or Capture: How a Special Operations Task Force Took Down a Notorious al Qaeda Terrorist (St. Martin’s Press, 2011).

Colonel (Ret.) Stuart A. Herrington, U.S. Army

Stu Herrington served 30 years as an Army intelligence officer, specializing in human intelligence/counterintelligence. He has extensive interrogation experience from service in Vietnam, Panama, and Operation Desert Storm. He has traveled to Guantanamo and Iraq at the behest of the Army to evaluate detainee exploitation operations, and he taught a seminar on humane interrogation practices to the Army’s 201st MI Battalion—Interrogation, during its activation at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Joe Navarro

For 25 years, Joe Navarro worked as an FBI special agent in the area of counterintelligence and behavioral assessment. A founding member of the National Security Division’s Behavioral Analysis Program, he is on the adjunct faculty at Florida’s Saint Leo University and the University of Tampa and remains a consultant to the intelligence community. Mr. Navarro is the author of a number of books about interviewing techniques and practice including Advanced Interviewing, which he co-wrote with Jack Schafer, and Hunting Terrorists: A Look at the Psychopathology of Terror. He currently teaches the Advanced Terrorism Interview course at the FBI.

Ken Robinson

Ken Robinson served a 20-year career in a variety of tactical, operational, and strategic assignments including Ranger, Special Forces, and clandestine special operations units. His experience includes service with the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. Ken has extensive experience in CIA and Israeli interrogation methods and is a member of the U.S. Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.

Buck Revell

Mr. Revell served a 30-year career (1964-1994) in the FBI as a Special Agent and senior executive. From 1980 until 1991, Mr. Revell served in FBI Headquarters first as Assistant Director in charge of Criminal Investigations (including terrorism); then as Associate Deputy Director he was in charge of the Investigative, Intelligence, Counter-Terrorism and International programs of the Bureau (1985-91). In September 1987, Mr. Revell was placed in charge of a joint FBI/CIA/U.S. military operation (Operation Goldenrod) which led to the first apprehension overseas of an international terrorist. Prior to joining the FBI, Mr. Revell served as an officer and aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps, leaving active duty in 1964 as a Captain. He currently serves as the President of an international business and security consulting group based in Dallas.

Mark Fallon

Mr. Fallon served for more than 30 years in the federal law enforcement and counterintelligence community, including as a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Special Agent and within the Department of Homeland Security, as the Assistant Director for Training of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). He began his federal law enforcement career in 1979 with the US Marshals Service. His first sworn position was in 1976 as a Police Constable with the Old Lyme Police Department in Connecticut. Mr. Fallon has been involved in many high impact cases, including the prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and as the Commander of the USS Cole Task Force. Mr. Fallon is internationally recognized for his leadership ability in crisis situations, counterterrorism acumen, and training experience.

Torin Nelson

Torin Nelson is the President of the Society for Professional Human Intelligence. He is a sixteen-year veteran interrogator and Human Intelligence specialist. Among other locations he has served at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

Steve Kleinman

Steven Kleinman is a Senior Advisor and Strategist of the National Security Program for the Soufan Group. He is a career intelligence officer with more than 26 years of operational and leadership experience in assignments worldwide. He is a recognized subject matter expert in the full spectrum of human intelligence operations, intelligence support to special operations, and special survival/resistance to interrogation training. Mr. Kleinman is a highly decorated veteran of three major military campaigns – Operation Just Cause, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom – during which he served as an interrogator, the chief of a joint and combines interrogation team, and as a senior advisor on interrogation operations to a special operations task force. He has been recognized as one of the most prolific interrogators during the first Gulf War.

Jack Cloonan

Jack Cloonan served as a special agent with the FBI from 1977 to 2002. He began investigating Al Qaeda in the early 1990’s and served as a special agent for the Bureau’s Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to 2002.


Published on May 7, 2011


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