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Time Says Cookies Make Terrorists Talk

From the former news magazine, Time:

How to Make Terrorists Talk

By Bobby Ghosh / Washington – Fri May 29

The most successful interrogation of an Al-Qaeda operative by U.S. officials required no sleep deprivation, no slapping or "walling" and no waterboarding. All it took to soften up Abu Jandal, who had been closer to Osama bin Laden than any other terrorist ever captured, was a handful of sugar-free cookies.

Abu Jandal had been in a Yemeni prison for nearly a year when Ali Soufan of the FBI and Robert McFadden of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service arrived to interrogate him in the week after 9/11. Although there was already evidence that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, American authorities needed conclusive proof, not least to satisfy skeptics like Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, whose support was essential for any action against the terrorist organization. U.S. intelligence agencies also needed a better understanding of al-Qaeda’s structure and leadership. Abu Jandal was the perfect source: the Yemeni who grew up in Saudi Arabia had been bin Laden’s chief bodyguard, trusted not only to protect him but also to put a bullet in his head rather than let him be captured.

Abu Jandal’s guards were so intimidated by him, they wore masks to hide their identities and begged visitors not to refer to them by name in his presence. He had no intention of cooperating with the Americans; at their first meetings, he refused even to look at them and ranted about the evils of the West. Far from confirming al-Qaeda’s involvement in 9/11, he insisted the attacks had been orchestrated by Israel’s Mossad. While Abu Jandal was venting his spleen, Soufan noticed that he didn’t touch any of the cookies that had been served with tea: "He was a diabetic and couldn’t eat anything with sugar in it." At their next meeting, the Americans brought him some sugar-free cookies, a gesture that took the edge off Abu Jandal’s angry demeanor. "We had showed him respect, and we had done this nice thing for him," Soufan recalls. "So he started talking to us instead of giving us lectures."

It took more questioning, and some interrogators’ sleight of hand, before the Yemeni gave up a wealth of information about al-Qaeda – including the identities of seven of the 9/11 bombers – but the cookies were the turning point. "After that, he could no longer think of us as evil Americans," Soufan says. "Now he was thinking of us as human beings."

Soufan, now an international-security consultant, has emerged as a powerful critic of the George W. Bush – era interrogation techniques; he has testified against them in congressional hearings and is an expert witness in cases brought by detainees. He has described the techniques as "borderline torture" and "un-American." His larger argument is that methods like waterboarding are wholly unnecessary – traditional interrogation methods, a combination of guile and graft, are the best way to break down even the most stubborn subjects. He told a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that it was these methods, not the harsh techniques, that prompted al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah to give up the identities of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla. Bush Administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, had previously claimed that Abu Zubaydah supplied that information only after he was waterboarded. But Soufan says once the rough treatment began – administered by CIA-hired private contractors with no interrogation experience – Abu Zubaydah actually stopped cooperating

Each interrogator has his own idea of how to run an interrogation. Soufan likes to research his captive as thoroughly as possible before entering the interrogation room. "If you can get them to think you know almost everything to know about them – their families, their friends, their movements – then you’ve got an advantage," he says. "Because then they’re thinking, ‘Well, this guy already knows so much, there’s no point in resisting … I might as well tell him everything.’" When Abu Zubaydah tried to conceal his identity after his capture, Soufan stunned him by using the nickname given to him by his mother. "Once I called him ‘Hani,’ he knew the game was up," Soufan says.

To get Abu Jandal’s cooperation, Soufan and McFadden laid a trap. After palliating his rage with the sugar-free cookies, they got him to identify a number of al-Qaeda members from an album of photographs, including Mohamed Atta and six other 9/11 hijackers. Next they showed him a local newspaper headline that claimed (erroneously) that more than 200 Yemenis had been killed in the World Trade Center. Abu Jandal agreed that this was a terrible crime and said no Muslim could be behind the attacks. Then Soufan dropped the bombshell: some of the men Abu Jandal had identified in the album had been among the hijackers. Without realizing it, the Yemeni prisoner had admitted that al-Qaeda had been responsible for 9/11: For all his resistance, he had given the Americans what they wanted. "He was broken, completely shattered," Soufan says. From that moment on, Abu Jandal was completely cooperative, giving Soufan and McFadden reams of information – names and descriptions of scores of al-Qaeda operatives, details of training and tactics…

Of course cookies that are not sugar-free might still be considered torture.

[Ali Soufan] told a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that it was these methods, not the harsh techniques, that prompted al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah to give up the identities of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla.

Er, never mind that this claim entirely contradicts the fabled CIA memos, which we thought were the media’s latest gold standard for truth.

And never mind that, despite the implications of this article, Mr. Soufan has no special background in interrogation techniques.

In fact, according to the New Yorker, Mr. Soufan was the only Arab speaking FBI agent in New York right after 9/11 hit. And that is how he happened to get the job.

And speaking of credibility, the author of this piece, Aparisim ‘Bobby’ Ghosh, is the fellow who along with Tim McGirk brought us Time’s notorious ‘Haditha massacre’ scoop.

Just in case you were tempted to trust anything he writes or anyone he decides would choose as a source.

Indeed, this is the second Time article the Muslim born Mr. Ghosh has written about the thoughts of his hero, Ali Soufan.

Mr. Ghosh has also recently opined on the need for prosecution of the Bush administration for its war crimes.

It’s almost as if he has an agenda.

(Thanks to Melissa for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, May 29th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

21 Responses to “Time Says Cookies Make Terrorists Talk”

  1. Steve, you had me going here. I thought I was reading another one of those satirical pieces again like when you posted the one about universal food for everyone. When I saw “slight of hand”, I thought they were trading information about al-qaeda for the secrets to some kind of magic tricks. Those must have been some good magic tricks.

    And how in the heck does knowing someones nickname make them feel like they need to divulge all secrets? If someone calls me Billy, I don’t go ranting and raving about my whole life story.

  2. Confucius says:

    Proof that America does not torture.

  3. proreason says:

    We also see the dividends a little love pays with the Tiny Tyrant in North Korea. He gave us a full hours notice before his latest nuclear test.

    And the benefits from the 1 billion we gave to Hamas are right around the corner. I’m thinking maybe a celebratory memorial to Obamy’s goodness in a major U.S. city soon. Or at least the excavations for it.

  4. Right of the People says:

    I’m diabetic and believe me, sugar-free cookies suck. I would consider making him eat those torture. Maybe he used a favorite nickname like, snookums or sweetie pie and patted him on the tush.

    • catie says:

      Right, those are the worst tasting things on the planet. My Uncle has them around all the time and even my son who was at the time 3 wouldn’t eat them and he ate everything imaginable. If someone was trying to get info from me though, that would be the way to do it.
      As for this clown, Ghosh if he truly believes those cookies were “the turning point”, then he’s a few cookies short of an after school snack.

    • Confucius says:

      I kind of like those sugar-free vanilla wafers. Is it just me?

  5. Reality Bytes says:

    Send for the Comfy Cushions! They’ll make ’em talk!!


  6. Phil Byler says:

    You cannot trust anything that liberal journalists write — period. What Ghosh writes is ridiculous and out of touch with reality.

  7. MinnesotaRush says:

    Oh my gawd!!! Somebody let Keebler know!!!

    Gee-zuz Key-ristmas!!! Are these “journalists” and their editors that stupid or do think that we are?!?! How ridiculous!?!?

    Interragator to bad guy .. “Alright, darn it. We know your responsible for being naughty. Tell us what happened.”

    Bad guy .. “I’ll tell ya’ if you get me 4 chocolate chip cookies and 8 peanut butter ones. Make the peanut butter ones with chocolate chip, too. They’re delightful! For a bag of black licorice, I’ll give ya’ everything!”.

    You’ve GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!

  8. MinnesotaRush says:

    Go ahead .. close Gitmo .. take ’em all to a bakery!!!


    • JohnMG says:

      This article makes me want to ‘toss my cookies’! (Choke, cough, gag, wheeze.)

  9. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    And having a glass of fresh udder squeezed camel’s milk to wash it all down is also a nice touch to show these guys that we’re not such evil infidels after all. Yeah right. I find it hard to believe that a hardened terrorist would spill the beans and narc on his co-conspirators over a plate of warm snickerdoodles.

  10. canary says:

    This normal routinee all the time. Bad cop/Good cop. After the bad cops get done, a good cop steps in and intervenes as savior and friend.

    Why would one terrorist think another’s was wrong. I imagine good cop used Koran talk and said if he told allah he was sorry, and told them the truth, used the allah will kill you if you lie, and allah and we will release you if you tell the truth. I’m sure it’s all on audio/vidio.

    Further, I’m sure the mask wearing was not because our men were afraid, but to intimidate and keep the prisoner confused and worried, just as they wear hoods in this own country when they chop reporters heads off.

    Iwho inspite of his own terrorism, pretends he’s stunned. Guy probably told him
    if he cooperated he’d be released. I’ve no doubt it’s on audio/vidio tape.

  11. Liberals Demise says:

    The only cookies that make you wanna do ANYTHING close to talking are laced with cannabis and baked at just the right temperature for just the right amount of time ……… or so I’m told. (wink)

  12. GL0120 says:

    I vote to drop the editorial board of the Times into a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
    The board can bring all the milk and cookies they want.
    All in favor?

  13. Barbie says:

    This is completely ridiculous.

  14. GetBackJack says:

    Well, if you feed him nothing but tryptophan-free cookies …

    (following was posted at Dr. Jack Wheeler’s excellent web site TO THE POINT NEWS)

    …. an interrogation method far more effective than torture, or the threat of it, that is foolproof, immediate, and humane. It works the first time, every time, with everybody — no exceptions. Yet it is harmless, completely reversible, with no aftereffects.

    First, a little background in brain chemistry. Your brain synthesizes, or manufactures, natural brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are necessary for the proper functioning of various activities. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers which transmit the appropriate signals through brain circuits for thinking, feeling, and motor action. One such neurotransmitter is called serotonin. Serotonin is an “inhibitory” neurotransmitter, and its constant presence is absolutely required for a normal and non-psychotic state of mind.

    Neurotransmitters are synthesized in the cell bodies of the neurons in the brain from specific nutrients in one’s diet. Norepinephrine, for example, responsible for alertness and mental energy, is synthesized from the amino acid phenylalanine and a number of additional co-factors. Caffeine works by stimulating the release and prolonging the activity of norepinephrine.

    The neurotransmitter serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan. Without tryptophan, the brain cannot make serotonin. This mechanism applies not only to the human brain, but to the brain of every species in the animal kingdom, from dogs to rats to elephants to birds.

    There have been numerous experiments that demonstrate the effects of a tryptophan-free diet on brain function in humans. Within about four hours, brain serotonin levels drop like a rock. Lacking the inhibitory regulation of serotonin, the brain becomes incapable of modulation. The individual possessor of such a brain rapidly becomes angry, depressed, and impulsive — incapable of controlling his emotions.

    The last thing a captured terrorist, intent on withholding information and resistant to interrogation, wants is to be uncontrollably impulsive. Such an individual would be putty in the hands of a skilled interrogator.

    The means of converting a terrorist into putty is TFM Interrogation, using tryptophan-free meals (TFMs). Not protein-free meals. Meals engineered to have only tryptophan excluded, and all other essential amino acids present. Protein is, of course, a package or assemblage of various combinations of amino acids.

    With a protein-free meal, blood amino levels will drop, causing the liver and other organs to start extracting aminos from blood albumin, then from muscle, then from organ tissue. Such amino extraction will include tryptophan. In other words, deprived of dietary protein, the body will cannibalize itself in order to supply the brain with tryptophan and other vital aminos.

    But a meal engineered to provide all necessary aminos except tryptophan exclusively will not cause such cannibalization. The liver has no capacity to notice the lack of one single amino such as tryptophan, just the overall lack of entire assemblies of aminos, or protein.

    A TFM is a semi-synthetic meal replacement, prepared in the form of a porridge, for example. It can contain plenty of real starch, plenty of real fat, plenty of real sugar or honey — plenty of real chocolate if desired. What it cannot contain is any complex protein at all. Instead, it must contain about 30 grams of a synthetic mixture of all essential aminos in crystalline form — specifically excluding tryptophan. Further, such a mixture should contain the same ratio of aminos as milk or meat, but with an extra amount of the aminos phenylalanine and tyrosine, which will both block any tryptophan extracted from the body reaching the brain, and increase the subject’s levels of anxiety and anger.

    Three such TFMs should be given to the subject over 12 hours, with the subject not having anything to eat prior to the first TFM for several hours. After four hours, the subject will become agitated, depressed, angry, and impulsive. He obviously must be heavily guarded and possibly restrained. Over the next eight to twelve hours, his symptoms will increase, becoming suicidal. Subjected to a TFM diet over a period of several days, he will become fully psychotic.

    After a round of interrogation during a TFM period, the subject should then receive a normal meal with complex protein — or simply the TFM with one or two grams of crystalline tryptophan added (it’s tasteless so he won’t notice any difference). He will calm down and feel pleasant. Then a “good cop” interrogator can step in and soothe him. Next meal time, it’s back to the TFM, and back the subject goes into uncontrollable impulsiveness. The subject will quickly develop a real fear of the “bad cop” interrogator who interrogates him during the TFM periods.

    There are no side or after-effects of TFM Interrogation. It is completely reversible immediately within an hour or less after one regular non-TFM meal. TFM Interrogation can be performed in the field, at Gitmo, anywhere. Red Cross observers or even Pat Leahy could be present. They could even analyze the subject’s blood — for whatever they test for, they wouldn’t think of testing for a lack of tryptophan. And even if they did, what would be the complaint? Malnutrition? Malnutrition that lasts for less than 24 hours?

    TFM Interrogation is an ultimate form of interrogation – soon to be utilized by the Pentagon to protect America from the bad guys.

    PS – the above is clear evidence, to me, that the USA does not use torture. The “Torture Meme” is a product of the propaganda factory, and is then cleverly turned on it’s head by military psyops … allowing the meme to do it’s work in the minds and hearts of our enemies. The military IS NOT going to detail how they extract information. But they’re big enough to allow the meme to roll like a virus throughout the world of our enemies (which includes Berkley, Pelosi, et al interalia) terrifying them … which is really really funny to have their own meme infecting them with fear they intended to broadcast outward consuming them.

    If you have TFI, what need have you to do all the sweaty hard work of beatings, wire whips, fingernails and water boarding? You don’t … ineffective and time consuming and hard on our troops. Ergo – we use TFI and then use the Left’s meme on them.

  15. Squito says:

    With this kind of thinking, the next time my five-year-old cousin misbehaves, instead of a spanking, we get him a milkshake from McDonald’s?

    I agree with Barbie and everyone else here. This is f**king ridic.

  16. hushpuppy says:

    Wow! If sugar-free cookies that had kind of effect, one wonders what hash brownies could do… :)

  17. wardmama4 says:

    What a piece of crap – to think that these journoLists think we are that damn stupid.

    And the crappola from Soufan sounds like so much puffery bs – guess he thought that since The Won does it (and gets away with it) – he might try it too.

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