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Matthew Alexander

Matthew Alexander

Posted: February 3, 2010 01:38 PM

The FBI Is Getting it Right

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The FBI has had it figured out for a while. They are leveraging their experience interrogating multiple terrorists over the past two decades along with knowledge gained since 9/11. The result: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be Christmas Day bomber, is talking. This after critics of the FBI's decisions led some pundits to assert that he clammed up or, worse, wasn't interrogated.

According to recent reporting from NPR's Dina Temple-Raston, FBI agents flew the would-be bomber's parents to the United States to speak with him. This is an effective, non-coercive interrogation technique used by every day detectives in the U.S., but also a legal, ethical approach found in the U.S. Army Field Manual for interrogations (in the Manual it's called "Love of Family").

Also, according to Temple-Raston:

One former official familiar with the case said he believes Abdulmutallab is talking because he wants to show that he fully intended to martyr himself on that Christmas Day flight and he is trying to convince authorities that the plan to do so was meticulous and well thought out.

This is another traditional interrogation technique that plays on a detainee's ego. In the Army Field Manual it's called "Pride and Ego Up (or Down)." I suspect that the interrogators are discussing with Abdulmutallab his failure to ignite the explosives in his underwear.

The FBI interrogators are also reportedly using rapport based-techniques to gain Abdulmutallab's trust. It is a time-tested method of interrogation that is quick, efficient, and in accordance with American values. Those who supported the torture and abuse of detainees, such as former CIA Director General Michael Hayden, continue to spread fear and false information about law enforcement techniques (Hayden, in his latest Washington Post Op-Ed states that Abdulmutallab exercised his right to remain silent; he did, temporarily, and then began cooperating again).

Just as Ali Soufan successfully interrogated Abu Zubaydah after his capture, and my team found Abu Musab Al Zarqawi by getting one of his confidants to sell him out, non-coercive techniques have scored another win for those interrogators skilled enough to use them. It's time to silence the non-expert critics and start trusting those who are achieving success.