FBI Terror Interrogator Didn’t Need Torture

Friday, May 15, 2009
Ali Soufan in Afghanistan (photo: FBI)

Torture saved America. That’s essentially what former Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials want everyone to believe. But according to Ali Soufan, one of the FBI’s top experts on al Qaeda—a man who personally interrogated a key terrorist suspect and extracted valuable intelligence without the use of extreme measures—the torture techniques employed by the CIA were “wrong, ineffective and an affront to American values,” according to a story in Newsweek.

Soufan, who was known for his shrewd, but benign interrogation techniques employing both English and Arabic, was one of the first American agents to talk to Abu Zubaydah after his capture in Pakistan. Wounded several times, Zubaydah needed medical attention, and Soufan, along with another FBI agent, Steve Gaudin, cared for the man whom they suspected was connected to al Qaeda. In treating Zubaydah’s wounds, Soufan and Gaudin gained the suspected terrorist’s trust and got him to talk…and to reveal the identity of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the architect of 9/11 and the dirty-bomb plot of José Padilla—all before CIA contractors began torturing Zubaydah, who was eventually waterboarded 83 times.
When Zubaydah was transferred to a CIA safe house, Soufan was apoplectic over attempts by CIA contractors to subject Zubaydah to harsh interrogation methods. The FBI agent reportedly got on a secure phone line and called Pasquale D’Amuro, then the FBI assistant director for counterterrorism. “I swear to God,” Soufan shouted, “I’m going to arrest these guys!”
Soufan’s concerns about CIA tactics went straight to the top of the FBI, to director Robert Mueller, who recalled Soufan and another FBI agent home. Then Mueller washed his hands of the CIA interrogation program and directed all FBI personnel to steer clear of detainee interrogations.
Soufan’s account of how he extracted the information about Mohammed and the dirty bomb plot contradicts the May 2005 Justice Department memo that implied this intelligence was gained from torturing Zubaydah. Soufan has since left the FBI and now works as a security consultant.
Testimony of Ali Soufan (Senate Judiciary Committee)


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