Torture Did Not Lead the U.S. to Bin Laden

Four leading former interrogators and intelligence officials argue today that, "The use of waterboarding and other so-called 'enhanced' interrogation techniques almost certainly prolonged the hunt for Bin Laden and complicated the jobs of professional U.S. interrogators who were trying to develop useful information." Matthew Alexander, Colonel (ret.) Stuart A. Herrington, Joe Navarro and Ken Robinson are members of an ad hoc working group of former high-ranking interrogation and intelligence officials who have devised a set of principles to guide effective interrogation practices and have advocated for its adoption across U.S. agencies.

Full text of their statement:

Torture Did Not Lead the U.S. to bin Laden, It Almost Certainly Prolonged the Hunt

We are concerned about the suggestion by some that the use of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques led U.S. forces to Osama bin Laden's compound.

The use of waterboarding and other so-called "enhanced" interrogation techniques almost certainly prolonged the hunt for Bin Laden and complicated the jobs of professional U.S. interrogators who were trying to develop useful information from unwilling sources like Khalid Sheik Muhammed.

Reports say that Khalid Sheik Muhammed and Abu Faraq al-Libi did not divulge the nom de guerre of a courier during torture, but rather several months later, when they were questioned by interrogators who did not use abusive techniques.

This is not surprising. Our experience is that torture is a poor way to develop useful, accurate information.

We know from experience that it is very difficult to elicit information from a detainee who has been abused. The abuse often only strengthens their resolve and makes it that much harder for an interrogator to find a way to elicit useful information.

We believe that the U.S. would have learned more from Khalid Sheik Muhammed and other high value detainees if, from the beginning, professional interrogators had a chance to question them using the sophisticated, yet humane, approaches approved by U.S. law.

We are convinced that the record shows that abusive questioning techniques did not help, but only hindered, the United States' efforts to find bin Laden.


Matthew Alexander

Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym) has spent more than 18 years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves. He personally conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised more than a thousand. Alexander was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievements in Iraq, including leading the team of interrogators that located Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was subsequently killed in an airstrike. Alexander has conducted missions in over 30 countries, has two advanced degrees, and speaks three languages. He is the author of How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq (Free Press, 2008) and Kill or Capture: How a Special Operations Task Force Took Down a Notorious al Qaeda Terrorist (St. Martin's Press, 2011).

Colonel (Ret.) Stuart A. Herrington, U.S. Army

Stu Herrington served 30 years as an Army intelligence officer, specializing in human intelligence/counterintelligence. He has extensive interrogation experience from service in Vietnam, Panama, and Operation Desert Storm. He has traveled to Guantanamo and Iraq at the behest of the Army to evaluate detainee exploitation operations, and he taught a seminar on humane interrogation practices to the Army's 201st MI Battalion--Interrogation, during its activation at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Joe Navarro

For 25 years, Joe Navarro worked as an FBI special agent in the area of counterintelligence and behavioral assessment. A founding member of the National Security Division's Behavioral Analysis Program, he is on the adjunct faculty at Florida's Saint Leo University and the University of Tampa and remains a consultant to the intelligence community. Mr. Navarro is the author of a number of books about interviewing techniques and practice including Advanced Interviewing, which he co-wrote with Jack Schafer, and Hunting Terrorists: A Look at the Psychopathology of Terror. He currently teaches the Advanced Terrorism Interview course at the FBI.

Ken Robinson

Ken Robinson served a 20-year career in a variety of tactical, operational, and strategic assignments including Ranger, Special Forces, and clandestine special operations units. His experience includes service with the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. Ken has extensive experience in CIA and Israeli interrogation methods and is a member of the U.S. Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.