Matthew Alexander (not his real name) is a fourteen year Air Force vet who served as an interrogator in Iraq, and he's written a book called How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq. Last night, Alexander made an appearance on The Daily Show, where he made a powerful case for the superior efficacy of not torturing people during interrogations.
Host Jon Stewart asked about that ancient trope of torture enthusiasts, the "Ticking Time Bomb Scenario." Alexander replied:
"When I was in Iraq we were dealing with the ticking time bomb every day, the people we had captured, they were behind the suicide bombs. So many of them, right then and there, had information that could have saved lives. But we knew that if we resorted to torture to get that information, that al Qaeda would have used that to recruit more fighters in the future."
Did torture ever work? Not surprisingly, the answer was no.
"I never saw coercive methods [pay off]...When I was in Iraq, the few times I saw people use harsh methods, it was always counterproductive. The person just hunkered down, they were expecting us to do that, and they just shut up. And then I'd have to send somebody in, build back up rapport, reverse that process, and it would take us longer to get information."
I think that this statement of Alexander's sums it up the best:
"The things that make you a good interrogator are the same things that make you a good American."
And also, the opposite is true.
I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq [Washington Post]