In an eye-opening interview with a former top FBI terrorism investigator, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff provides startling insight into why UC Berkeley prof John Yoo and other Bush officials were so incredibly wrong about torture. In early 2002, Ali Soufan was the United States' lead interrogator of Abu Zubaydah, the first high-ranking Al Qaeda operative captured after 9/11. Zubaydah was seriously injured during his arrest, so Soufan and his partner nursed him slowly back to health. Using the traditional FBI interrogation technique of rapport-building, Soufan, who speaks fluent Arabic and is an expert on the Koran, convinced Zubaydah to identify the planner of the 9/11 attacks and give up other crucial details about Al Qaeda. But then a CIA contractor showed up and took over the interrogation, and began torturing Zubaydah, in apparent belief that that was the only way the prisoner would tell all he knew. Soufan was horrified: "I swear to God," he shouted to his FBI superiors in Washington D.C. after learning some of what the CIA contractor had in mind. "I'm going to arrest these guys!"
If you're still convinced in any way that torture works, read Isikoff's piece. Soufan is a modern-day hero. Here's another tidbit:
"I've kept my mouth shut about all this for seven years," Soufan says. But now, with the declassification of Justice memos and the public assertions by Cheney and others that "enhanced" techniques worked, Soufan feels compelled to speak out. "I was in the middle of this, and it's not true that these [aggressive] techniques were effective," he says. "We were able to get the information about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a couple of days. We didn't have to do any of this [torture]. We could have done this the right way."
As Soufan tells the story, he challenged a CIA official at the scene about the agency's legal authority to do what it was doing. "We're the United States of America, and we don't do that kind of thing," he recalls shouting at one point. But the CIA official, whom Soufan refuses to name because the agent's identity is still classified, brushed aside Soufan's concerns. He told him in April 2002 that the aggressive techniques already had gotten approval from the "highest levels" in Washington, says Soufan.Still more:
Soufan also was a key investigator of the bombing of the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden in October 2000. Robert McFadden, a U.S. naval criminal investigator who also worked on the Cole bombing, says that Soufan could quote Qur'anic passages to radical jihadist prisoners, challenging them about the meaning of the prophet's words and ultimately gaining enough trust to engage them in extended conversations about their lives. "It's amazing the amount of information that came out of his interviews," says McFadden.