May 13, 2009

Ali Soufan, the former FBI interrogator who wrote a riveting op-ed against the use of torture -- and he should know, since he was interrogating Abu Zubaydah himself -- testified under oath today that he got information out of Zubaydah quickly using basic FBI methods; and that information was then used successfully to capture "the bad guys." Then, when the CIA forced torture on Zubaydah, they got nothing.

It knocks down Liz and Dick Cheney's talking points all to hell. They have been saying that waterboarding uncovered crucial information, but Soufan refutes that as well.

David Shuster goes over his testimony and it's incredible. Soufan also got more information by using his own techniques later on and was thrown off the interrogation detail for his success. The high wizards of BushCo. wanted to torture these people, and we know why: See "Abusive tactics used to seek Iraq-al Qaida link" for more.

Soufan said torture is too slow and unreliable, as evidenced by the 83 times Zubaydah was waterboarded.

Soufan: It's merely an exercise in trying to force compliance rather than elicit cooperation. A major problem is that it is ineffective. Waterboarding itself had to be used 83 times, an indication that Abu-Zubayda had already called his interrogators' bluff.

The Atlantic made my job a little easier:

The Senate Judiciary Committee hears testimony from former lead FBI counterterrorism agent Ali Soufan. Soufan calls "enhanced interrogation techniques" "ineffective, slow, unreliable" and therefore harmful, "aside from the important considerations that they are un-American and harmful to our case and reputation." Soufan describes the successful non-coercive interrogation of Al Qaeda terrorist Abu Jandal, who "identified many terrorists who we later successfully apprehended." Soufan describes an interrogation method he calls the "Informed Interrogation Approach," which seeks to capitalize on the natural fear that a detainee feels as a result of his custody by adopting a posture of openness and respect.

Soufan presents an interesting challenge to the Ticking Time Bomb Scenario. Noting that it took 83 waterboardings to force Khalid Shake Mohammed to cough up information, he describes that technique as "slow" and therefore unreliable when information needs to be obtained quickly. Soufan also provides an unclassified chronology of the joint FBI-CIA efforts to question Abu Zubaydah. He says that his early efforts to coax information out of the Al Qaeda operate were successful, and CIA director George Tenet prepared a congratulatory telegram. As soon as Tenet learned that FBI agents -- not his CIA team -- had taken the lead role in the interrogation, he withdrew the congratulations and sent a team from the CIA's counterterrorism center to the interrogation site. That team was assisted by a contractor who "instructed" the new CIA operatives in tougher interrogation techniques. According to Soufan, the new team began to use the EITs. Zubaydah stopped cooperating. Soon, the FBI was brought back in. Zubaydah opened up like a book.

The attacks will start to flow in against Soufan, as you'll see in the above video. Joe Watkins says that while he had success, he's also a "disgruntled employee."

Shuster:...flatly contradicts the allegations that many conservatives and Vice President Cheney have made, that waterboarding produced significant information. Your reaction?

Watkins: Ali Soufan is certainly somebody who had experience and had some success with using his own interrogation methods, but you have to realize that he's a disgruntled former employee of the FBI. He did not agree with waterboarding and other means of...

Shuster: But that does not change the accuracy of his statements. He's testifying under oath that the information that we got from Abu-Zubayda came from him and not from waterboarding. Isn't that significant?

Watkins: It's significant for him...

Our pal James Boyce comes on and refutes Watkins' hollow rationalizations.

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