Apropos of Rich’s post about the Navy, I found this email particularly interesting:
I’ve been an Army interrogator since 1990, and just finished up a hitch as an interrogation instructor and interrogation training developer. I think that was a good piece (Barbarians at the Geneva Gates), but I think there are a couple points people never seem to mention.
But first let me say, Abu Ghraib was idiotic and it wasn’t interrogation or interrogators.
The first thing is that these “harsh” techniques that make the press quite often are not the standard procedure. The US Army has only about 500 interrogators, worldwide, that’s very thin. Even if we wanted to, we really don’t have time to mess with prisoners. The thing that makes an interrogator happy is a prisoner that talks immediately and not with all the psychological ruses that we get trained to use. Thankfully, over 90% of the prisoners talk. We will not even use harsher techniques every time for the truly hardcore prisoners – it really depends on the potential value of the information that the prisoner may have. If he’s belligerent, but useless, we essentially give him the minimum demanded by Geneva and essentially ignore him. Something that bothers me about all this is that all of the techniques adopted by FM34-52 have survived legal review for decades (and DOD lawyers are not stupid – they have a focus towards a war effort where the objective is killing the enemy, as opposed to US civil/criminal lawyers) – all of a sudden all of this stuff is illegal? I am a GW1 vet, with 3,000 interrogations under my belt, nothing was off limits and suddenly we are all wrong?
(FYI, in Gulf War 1 – GW1, we had female MPs and female interrogators – and we strip searched Iraqi soldiers by the battalion…no outcry there)
The second thing which concerns me the most is that now that we’ve had the congressional debates, the WSJ articles and all of the hand wringing, Gen. Sanchez has banned 9 more techniques overseas – and this isn’t the crazy stuff you’ve heard of, like simulated drowning, which we don’t teach – including sleep deprivation, hooding (which is as much a safety technique for us and the prisoner as an interrogation preparation technique). I figure than any more DOD knee jerking and we’ll be reduced to singing “Kumbayah” to guys that we’ve caught either planning to kill Americans or who have killed Americans.
Some parting shots.
Interrogation has saved thousands of US and US military lives – especially in Afghanistan with that thug Gulbudin Hekmatyr, with his 50,000 soldiers (sic), who has publicly stated that his goal is the overthrow of the Karzai Gov’t and the expulsion of all US forces – who daily plots ambushes, road side bombs, and sniper attacks against US personnel. It was two interrogators that got the information that lead to the capture of Saddam. People in my office in 1999 (can’t say where) helped wrap up the millennium plot. Despite the bombings you see regularly in Iraq, interrogations are foiling on a daily basis plans to kill Americans (big country, unfortunately you can’t interrogate everybody).
If you go back a couple years, you’ll find out that there was a document published in the press called the “al Qaida Training Manual” – still available online – its states pretty plainly that the objective of taking prisoners (US, Western, etc) is for the purpose of public execution. No concerns for Geneva of course – Biden can whine all he wants about treaties that protect US personnel, but I can tell you, that proper treatment of US personnel has never been part of the Islamist game plan.
Last shot. I think what somebody really needs to do is to have an educated and rational debate on interrogation techniques. Really, is sleep deprivation that bad? CNN was whining about prisoners being kept up 20 hours a day. So? I do that all the time just as an instructor with papers to grade. Stress positions? The way that we (us and NATO interrogators) train on those during NATO exercises (like ILRPS) is to rotate the prisoners (NATO SF, infantry, etc) out of the position every 15 minutes (into another one). I’ve been in these stress positions and would describe them as aggravating for the most part. If I explained them to you, you wouldn’t be all that impressed – its not torture. Taking away the Koran from belligerent prisoners?
Anyway, thanks for the article, it seemed pretty objective.
PS – I’m still active duty, please do not repeat my name anywhere, the military has become pretty hostile with people talking to the press.