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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

(Un)Enhanced Interrogation

It is 2012 and somewhere in the desolate region between Afghanistan and Pakistan members of an elite Marine fighting unit have captured the number 2 in al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri (AAZ). He has been turned over to interrogators at a local military installation that consists of several tents and vehicles with not much else.

al-Zawahiri is sitting in a crude chair in the middle of a tent which billows in the hot wind. He has a hood over his head, shackles on his legs and around his waist to which his hands are bound with cuffs behind his back. In front of him is a table with a pitcher of water, it had ice but it has quickly melted in the Afghan heat. In back of al-Zawahiri is the entrance to the tent, standing guard are two young, but battle hardened, Marines in full combat gear and weaponry. Into the tent walks a man who is wearing civilian clothes, khaki shirt and pants with comfortable boots on his feet. He carries a briefcase. He lays the briefcase on the table and pulls out papers that he neatly arranges on the table, he then pulls out several pencils that are sharpened and two pens. Before he sits down he turns on the video recorder that is on a tri-pod and directed at al-Zawahiri.

Interrogator: Mr. al-Zawahiri my name is Dennis Smith, excuse me. Could one of you please remove Mr. al-Zawahiri's hood from over his head and allow his hands to be cuffed in front of him please?

The Marines stationed at the door look at each other with disbelief and move forward. While one moves into the prisoner's line of sight with his M16 rifle pointed squarely in the middle of his chest. The other Marine yanks the hood off of al-Zawahiri's head causing the prisoner to let out a grunt, then roughly grabs his wrists and unlocks the cuffs moving his hands to the prisoner's lap where they are again locked onto the chain around his waist.

INT: Sorry for the rough treatment there. Are you okay? Can I get you a glass of water or juice?

The interrogator pour a large glass of cool water and places it on the table in front of the prisoner.

INT: As I was saying, my name is Dennis Smith and I am with the United States Government. Since 2010 and the prosecution of my predecessors in this position of field interrogator for the Central Intelligence Agency our government has changed our guidelines for this procedure. As such I must read you the following statement before we begin. First, I know from your background you are fluent in many languages. Can you understand what I have said so far?

AAZ: Yes

INT: Good! Okay let's begin. He picks up a paper from the desk and reads:

As I have stated my name is Dennis Smith, I work for the Executive Branch of the White House assigned to the Justice Department in the section of Interrogation of Personnel Captured in Foreign Lands. If you have any complaints from your treatment or my actions you may contact the base commander and request the proper forms to complete and submit. As we have our talk today I must inform you that the session is being not only recorded by the camera in back of me, but also being viewed live by attorneys in Washington for the U.S. Justice Department and also in a special office established by the American Civil Liberties Union. The purpose of the taping and their viewing is to ensure I follow the policies and procedures established by the Justice Department by Attorney General Eric Holder under the 2010 Guidelines for Judicious Interrogations to Establish a more Kind America.

Do you understand we are being watched and this session video taped? Oh and also when we are finished a copy of the tape will be made available to you and your legal representative when he arrives. Do you understand?

AAZ: Grins as he nods his head Yes, I am understanding.

INT: Big grin That's great! Okay let me continue with the disclosure:

You are in the custody of the United States of America suspected of committing crimes against the people of the United States. While you are in custody it is the policy of the United States to not use coercive techniques or methods that may cause you physical or mental discomfort, pain, anguish, anxiety, confusion or disorientation; commonly referred to as "torture." Interrogator makes exaggerated quote signs in the air with his hands.

It is our objective to establish a welcome environment for you so that we may discuss your history with the al-Qaeda network and any operations that may be currently active or being planned that may bring harm to any citizens of the United States of America.

To help us establish with this objective I have a Prisoner Preference In-Take Form, a checklist, for you to complete to inform us of any special dietary needs you may have, any medications you may be taking under a doctor's prescription, type of music you prefer to listen to when relaxing--I might add as personal aside we have an extensive collection of CDs from musicians from all over the world, quite delightful. Continuing, what your preference is for bedding, soft or firm mattresses, pillows that type of thing. Finally, you are on a Federal installation so all the buildings, or structures such as this tent, are subject to the anti-smoking laws of the United States of America so no one may smoke except in designated areas. If someone violates this law in your presence please notify myself or the base commander immediately and that individual will be harshly disciplined for not only violating the ant-smoking law but subjecting you to his nasty habit and the second hand smoke.

Also on the in-take form is a lengthy area concerning your faith and how you choose to worship. If possible, and if he is willing, we can try to bring your spiritual guide to meet with you and pray with you while in our custody in this region.

One other point. If you find the language I used during our conversations to be offensive please let me know. As I am American I am not fully aware of the cultural sensitivities you may have that I may offend. I will refrain from such derogatory terms as "Jihadist" "Terrorist" or "Islamasist" but if I happen to use another term or word that offends you please let me know.

Finally, I wish to reiterate that our objective hear is to establish a comfortable atmosphere so we can have a genuine dialogue about our differences and so you can let us know of any plans for operations that may bring harm to the United States or its people. It is about establishing trust between you and me, and trust between your people and our people; trust we know was so badly damaged by the tactics and actions of my predecessors as the extracted information from those captured in similar situations to yours. While we recognize the valuable information obtained from such horrible procedures and techniques--can you imagine? They blew smoke in their faces, played heavy metal music and kept them awake for hours on end? But we have covered all that and the President has apologized on behalf of our nation. Anyway while recognizing the valuable information obtained through such methods our nation's leaders wish to create a more welcome environment so that we may establish a new relationship.

So are you ready to begin?

al-Zawahiri looks around with a look of confusion.

AAZ: This is a joke isn't it? You are trying to soften me up so when the tough guys come I am caught unaware!

INT: I assure you Mr. al-Zawahiri this is no joke, we care about you as a person and while we acknowledge that you have participated in the killing of thousands of innocent people around the world we wish to begin a new relationship and allow you to renounce the violence you are planned and participated in. If you speak to us I think you will find a tremendous burden lifted from your soul, you will feel re-born and re-invigorated! Now, can you please tell me of any current plans your organization has to bring harm to the United States or its citizens?

AAZ: No

INT: Please?

AAZ: No

INT: Pleeease?

AAZ: No

INT: Come on Mr. al-Zawahiri, you are not participating as we build trust! Please tell me about any current operations.

AAZ: No

INT: Please....

AAZ: No and I want a lawyer

INT: Well if that is the way you want to have it go. Okay we will have a lawyer from our Justice Department meet you in an hour. In the meantime please complete your in-take form so we can be prepared for your stay. And if you need to use the restroom and freshen up so you are more comfortable please let the one of the Marine guards know. I am pleased to have this chance to meet you and look forward to our conversations!

AAZ: Infidel pig.

INT: Well I can see we will have to start with trust building and get rid of that nasty name calling. I will see you in an hour, in the meantime please consider giving us the information I have requested. It sure would help me out personally with my superiors. Have a nice afternoon.

As the interrogator leaves the tent al-Zawahiri leans back in his chair and smiles. "It is true," he thought. "The Americans have abandoned any type of interrogation techniques to force information out of me. If only they had done this before Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been captured more of our operations would have been successful!"



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3 comments:

George said...

I would have clocked the SOB right after the orange juice.

Bob Schilling said...

Your simulated interrogation of Ayman Al-Zawahiri assumes attitudes and personality traits on his part that, as far as I know, have not been confirmed by reliable sources. In truth, I'm not sure we know who these people are or what motivates them.

If Al-Qaeda wanted to mount another attack in the United States, it's beyond me why they haven't done it already. It's certainly not our security that's preventing it. It makes me wonder if they were telling the truth when they said their objective was to enmesh us in a war we couldn't win in the Middle East....like maybe Iraq, or Afghanistan, where no western power has prevailed since Alexander the Great.

Al-Qaeda is an enemy. I don't for a moment think they have our best interests at heart. But I don't think we've asked anywhere near the right questions about just what are the motives and objectives of this group or movement, or whatever it is. And without that understanding, I don't think we're going to get very far in disabling and disarming them.

And I don't think waterboarding them, or keeping them awake for a week, or for that matter attaching electrodes to their tender parts is going to get us any closer to the day when we don't have to fear them.

But that's just me....

poolman said...

actually bob i agree that the eits are not going to get us any closer to the day that we no longer fear al qaeda. however, they were a temporary measure used at a time when we were blind to their organizational structure, their funding and their imminent plans. it must be remembered that these techniques were used in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when i think anybody who was asked figured that the question of another attack was only a matter of when and not if. our security measures did as a matter of fact stop attacks and that is a matter of record in the recently released although highly redacted reports.

the obama administration wants to treat al qaeda more as a law enforcement issue, however if you do treat this as a law enforcement issue you will need to rely heavily on accurate intelligence. it seems odd that he has chosen to handicap our intelligence agencies by opening up career agents to expensive litigation. many prospective agents will decide that it is not worth the effort. the threat of litigation is a powerful tool to quash a persons efforts even when that effort is moral and legal. how many business practices are altered forever because of a landmark lawsuit with a huge payout? i am not allowed by my insurance company to even look at a diving board sideways because of the liability.

if you are truly interested in knowing what al qaeda and, in fact, some of the radical clerics are advocating in the middle east you might try the website memri.org they translate what is being preached and published in the middle east for the middle east not what they say for the west. it is an eye opening experience.

as a side note i think it would be a great idea that when we look at some of these eits it should be mandatory to also show what these monsters are capable of (the beheadings, the stonings the torturing of their own people). not because two wrongs make a right but to put into context the how the so called "torture" we inflicted measures up to what they inflict on others. let the american people decide. i am of the belief that getting the bejesus scared out of you is much preferable to having your head cut off.

the world is a scary place and unfortunately there are no tidy answers. i would love a world in which there was no war and no injustice. unfortunately until utopia exists we can only make the choices available to us in the real world and often those choices are between bad and worse not between good and bad.