“We Could Have Done This the Right Way”

A must-read from Michael Isikoff of Newsweek starring FBI agent Ali Soufan, the man who would have led the interrogations of America’s detainees if the war on terror had been prosecuted in a different universe these past eight years:

“I was in the middle of this, and it’s not true that these [aggressive] techniques were effective,” [Soufan] 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.”

…Soufan was a key investigator of the bombing of the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden in October 2002. 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.

…”We kept him alive,” Soufan says. “It wasn’t easy, he couldn’t drink, he had a fever. I was holding ice to his lips.” Gaudin, for his part, cleaned Abu Zubaydah’s buttocks. During this time, Soufan and Gaudin also began the questioning; it became a “mental poker game.” At first, Abu Zubaydah even denied his identity, insisting that his name was “Daoud.”

But Soufan had poured through the bureau’s intelligence files and stunned Abu Zubaydah when he called him “Hani”—the nickname that his mother used for him. Soufan also showed him photos of a number of terror suspects who were high on the bureau’s priority list. Abu Zubaydah looked at one of them and said, “That’s Mukhtar.”

Now it was Soufan who was stunned. The FBI had been trying to determine the identity of a mysterious “Mukhtar,” whom bin Laden kept referring to on a tape he made after 9/11. Now Soufan knew: Mukhtar was the man in the photo, terror fugitive Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and, as Abu Zubaydah blurted out, ” the one behind 9/11.”

There’s obviously a lot more. Click the link. And for a roundup of torture/detainee content from Mother Jones, check out this archive page or this blog post.