Читать онлайн "The Black Banners" автора Soufan Ali H. - RuLit - Страница 111

 
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Years later, when Qosi’s case went to trial, he pleaded guilty on the advice of his defense team.

There were many initial successes and frustrations at Gitmo. The problem was that there was no plan, and there were no rules of engagement aiming toward an endgame. The seasoned investigators started out doing everything by the book, but soon we were being given contrary orders from above.

The first new directive forbade the reading of the Miranda warning to detainees. Henceforth any confessions we got couldn’t be used as evidence in any court, military or civilian. (The Uniform Code of Military Justice also requires that subjects be advised of their rights.) After many protested, especially the detectives assigned to various JTTFs who were reassigned to Gitmo, the bureau sent down a senior official, Spike Bowman, to tell us that Washington viewed Guantánamo at this stage as just an intelligence collection operation, and that we shouldn’t worry about eventual prosecutions.

General Dunlavey often asked me for help when he was having problems with detainees, and at one point he told me that the detainees were on a hunger strike and the guards didn’t know why. I interviewed some of them and was told that they were protesting because the guards had supposedly replaced the morning call to prayer with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”

There was also a series of disagreements between experienced and novice interrogators about how interrogations should be carried out. The problem was that after 9/11, the U.S. military and other government entities rapidly expanded their teams that dealt with terrorism and put people in positions they didn’t have the training or experience for. People were put on the job at Gitmo after just a six-week training course, without having ever conducted a real interrogation, let alone interrogated al-Qaeda terrorists. Their knowledge of al-Qaeda was thin and largely based on media accounts and press conferences.

When these inexperienced interrogators started doing their own interviews, they didn’t have much success, and began trying different methods to get information. They were under pressure from officials in Washington to “produce results.” One interrogator dressed up as a cowboy and blared country music into the interrogation room, thinking that somehow it would shock the detainee into cooperating. Later, I heard of reports of cruelty beginning to seep in, and harsher tactics were employed at Gitmo, such as the use of cinderblocks to hold detainees in stress positions.

The experienced investigators refused to be party to such interrogations and protested up our chain of command. CITF also organized training sessions for these fresh interrogators, and we tried explaining how to sort detainees, how to flip people (get them to cooperate), and how to utilize knowledge of al-Qaeda to gain information. The problem was that interrogation skills and knowledge cannot be picked up from a few sessions; they come from studying the group and the subject, and lots of interrogation experience working alongside experts.

Some of the military interrogators began to dress like FBI and CITF personnel, thinking that our successes stemmed from our appearance. At one point, Mark Fallon, the deputy CITF commander, even received a request from the military for two hundred CITF-logo polo shirts.

It wasn’t only experienced interrogators who objected to what they saw, but also behavioral experts sent to the base to support the interrogations. Experienced experts like Tom Neer from the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit; the CTC’s [2 words redacted]; and Mike Gelles, NCIS’s chief psychologist, all traveled to the base and voiced their objections.

Shortly after we arrived at Gitmo we had a series of discussions organized by CITF on how to sort and process the detainees. Years later Bob McFadden reminded me of what I told the group: “From here, within Gitmo, we will either win or lose the war. After we interrogate people we need to sort them: who is guilty of crimes and who is innocent. If they’re innocent, or if we’re not going to be able to prosecute them, then we need to think of their detention here as a rehabilitation period. Otherwise we’re creating new enemies. In the process we need to show them what the ‘real America’ is, and leave them with good impressions. And if we fail to process detainees, we’ll lower the incentive for other detainees to cooperate, as they’ll see cooperation doesn’t change their situation. As for the guilty ones, we need to process them and put them on trial. Otherwise we’re creating living martyrs.”

This view was shared by the other experienced investigators, and after we’d finish our interrogations, we’d file any intelligence that could be used for operations and assess whether the people should be prosecuted or freed. We had an important advantage against many of the al-Qaeda members we interrogated at the start, as they were in deep shock to be in U.S. custody. For years they had been told by bin Laden that the United States was a cowardly country whose soldiers would flee when attacked. The al-Qaeda leader would cite the U.S. withdrawals from Lebanon and Somalia following attacks as examples of American “cowardice.” But after 9/11, when we invaded Afghanistan, al-Qaeda’s rhetoric was exposed as hollow. The image of al-Qaeda’s leaders (rather than U.S. soldiers) scurrying into hiding places, and even fleeing Afghanistan, turned perceptions upside down. This made al-Qaeda members fear the United States for the first time, and made them more likely to cooperate than when they thought al-Qaeda had the upper hand.

The image of a confident and strong America was compromised when the Guantánamo guards were ordered to chain the detainees’ hands and feet so they could barely move. When a detainee needed to be moved from his cell to an interrogation room, two guards would almost carry him, sometimes even putting him on a wheeled stretcher. “This actually plays into al-Qaeda’s rhetoric and shows them that we are indeed terrified of them,” I told the CITF. “We need to do it securely and safely, but this is overkill. It’s a mistake.”

In each interrogation I conducted, I had the guards take off the detainee’s chains. I wanted to show that I wasn’t afraid of the person I was interrogating. Taking off the chains also furthered the process, as detainees reacted well when treated with dignity.

“Why are you being nice to them?” one guard asked me in a sneering tone.

“I’m playing mind games with them,” I told him, “playing on their notions of respect and dignity. When I treat them well, they feel they have to be polite and responsive, and in return I get the intelligence I need. For that, I’ll be nice.”

One day General Dunlavey called me, along with the CIA chief [2 words redacted], Matt, to his office. He told us that FBI director Robert Mueller would be arriving shortly and that he would like us to accompany him and the director on a tour. I had never met Mueller before; he was appointed just before 9/11, and I had been largely outside the United States on missions since his appointment.

When the director arrived, I had just come out of an interrogation and was wearing cargo pants and a polo shirt and had a beard, so I didn’t look like an FBI agent. As we took him around the base, Dunlavey periodically asked me to explain things to Mueller, and I noticed the director looking at me strangely, as if he was trying to work out who I was. At the end of the tour, Dunlavey turned to the director and said: “Now that you’ve seen the operation, let me introduce you to the people who are making it happen.” Rather than have a general introduce Mueller to one of his own agents, I quickly said: “Ali Soufan, FBI, nice to meet you sir,” before Dunlavey could finish.

     

 

2011 - 2018