“Enhanced Interrogation” by James Mitchell with Bill Harlow gives a look into enhanced interrogation techniques from the perspective of one who used them.
Having spent years training U.S. military personnel to resist questioning, he explains the procedures, safeguards and the results from the interrogation program. Being on the front lines, Mitchell personally questioned 13 of the most senior, high-value detainees in U.S. custody, including Abu Zubaydah, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri — the amir or “commander” of the USS Cole bombing — and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Mitchell is a psychologist who served 22 years in the Air Force and who helped develop the CIA’s interrogation program. He only dealt with the top-tier terrorists and, by his own admission, has spent more time with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) than other interrogators.
He helped incorporate some of the harsh techniques employed by the U.S. military SERE schools. He said these survival, evasion, resistance and escape techniques had been used for more than five decades without significant injuries to “train warfighters to protect secrets. I had been subjected to them myself, had used them to train others, and helped the Air Force Survival School revise its approach to resistance training after the first Gulf War.”
Readers will understand that EITs, when applied correctly, were useful in drawing detainees to cooperate, and, when applied incorrectly, they were counter-productive. He was particularly critical of Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent who first interrogated Abu Zubaydah at a CIA black site in Thailand. Soufan, a darling of the left, said the rapport-building techniques he used when he questioned Abu Zubaydah resulted in a huge intelligence score: the identity of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed versus what the CIA was doing in using “borderline torture techniques,” which made Zubaydah not cooperate.
Not true, says Mitchell, and he recounts in his book, “Zubaydah shut down after Soufan called him a son of a b—- and then tried to bribe him. He thinks he buddied up with him after offering him spiritual guidance. This is ridiculous. Zubaydah later told me he did it because if talking about religion then he was not speaking about operations.”
Mitchell thinks “too much has been made of waterboarding. Of 1,623 days in CIA custody, only 14 days was he subjected to EITs. People are focusing on two weeks out of years. The CIA made sure to have doctors to evaluate the detainees before and after the interrogations to prevent long-term mental and physical problems. When you hear about Zubaydah’s mental problems, remember he wrote in his diaries about how he faked mental issues.”
What did work, according to Mitchell, was President George W. Bush’s response.
“The swiftness and veracity put the terrorists off balance,” Mitchell says. “KSM told me, ‘How was I supposed to know that cowboy George Bush would announce he wanted us “dead or alive” and then invade Afghanistan to hunt us down?’ He made it clear that had the U.S. treated 9/11 like a law enforcement matter, he would have had time to launch a second wave of attacks.”
KSM also predicted how those in the press and some in the political arena would turn on the interrogators who took aggressive action to prevent other attacks on Americans. Mitchell is especially critical of the Democrats, notably Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) who “set us up as the fall guys.”
“They were writing things in official reports that were inaccurate and misleading without giving us a chance to defend ourselves,” he said. “Her report has stirred up the crazies and Jihadists, essentially issuing a Fatwa against everyone and me, past or present, working to protect Americans from Jihadist terrorist attacks. In fact, Feinstein staffers on ‘deep background’ outted me.”
It is almost laughable if it weren’t so sad how the press plays a role in promoting the terrorist agenda.
“Too much has been made of waterboarding,” Mitchell said. “Those in the media are obsessed with it. They ignore it was done to stop catastrophic operations within the U.S. I was told by someone who wanted to interview me, ‘I am not looking for the truth, but am looking for a quote.’ Another journalist ran something by me she intended to publish. When I told her what she was saying was not even remotely true, her response, ‘what I’m going to write about you speaks to a larger truth that may not come across if I stick to the facts of the situation.’”
He said he wants Americans to understand that the media, the Obama Administration, and some Democrats “live in a bubble of protection provided by the men and women who are willing to sacrifice their lives. Yet, they will throw them under the bus afterwards so they can claim the moral high ground. In my mind, the temporary discomfort of a terrorist who has voluntarily taken up arms to destroy our way of life does not outweigh my moral obligation to do what I can to save hundreds, maybe thousands of people. Good luck finding anyone who will actually use EIH if asked to. As Gen. Michael Hayden said, ‘you better bring your own bucket and rubber boots.’”
Hoping that the new Trump Administration will understand that hardened terrorists will not give up information freely, Mitchell said he believes “senior level terrorists who are hardened at protecting secrets will not give any information based on the Army Field Manual’s techniques. I know what Gen. (James) Mattis said, and consider him a man of integrity and honor. I think he understands that no one gives up information for a beer and a pack of cigarettes. The mall cops use techniques outlawed to the CIA. We need to have available a full spectrum of techniques instead of being restricted to the Army Field Manual.”
In this gripping and illuminating book, people will get a glimpse into the thoughts of high-ranking terrorists, an explanation of what was done to get them to talk, and a front seat view of how some on the left would rather turn the Jihadists into victims rather than perpetrators. “Enhanced Interrogation” is an outstanding explanation and understanding of what is needed to keep America safe.