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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Book Review: Enhanced Interrogation - Inside The Minds And Motives Of The Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America

Book Review: Enhanced Interrogation - Inside The Minds And Motives Of The Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America

January 1, 2017

Enhanced Interrogation
Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America
James E. Mitchell, PhD with Bill Harlow
Crown Publishing Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, November 2016
ISBN 978-1-101-90684-2


December 20, 2016 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - Heading into both the Jewish and Christian holidays and with the legacy media refusing to cover the multiple foreign wars in which America is involved, the topic of interrogating captured jihadis is probably about as far from public consciousness as can be imagined, yet the issue casts a far larger shadow than even those knowledgeable about such matters might suspect.

Despite this impediment, James Mitchell and Bill Harlow's superlative "Enhanced Interrogation," might well loom as a dark-horse favorite among this year's small crop of books devoted to national security [among which might be recommended this writers recently published, "Islamic Jihad, Cultural Marxism and the Transformation of the West"].

Given that Dr. Mitchell, a PhD clinical psychologist with 22 years of service in the U.S. Air Force [Lt. Col, Ret] is the book's lead author we will devote the review to his narrative, which is expertly crafted, quite revealing and surprisingly addictive given the weighty matters discussed.

Within hours of the 911 attacks, Mitchell had been contacted by members of the Central Intelligence Agency pitching the idea of him helping to develop techniques and guidelines whereby high level battlefield captures [primarily al-Qaeda kingpins] could be expertly interrogated/debriefed, within U.S. legal constraints, which at the time were less defined and restrictive than they are today.

Mitchell didn't require much in the way of a recruiting - with the images of the crumpled Twin Towers burned into his mind only hours pervious - but his undertaking very quickly grew into an extraordinarily important aspect of the "war on terror."

It fell upon Mitchell and a small group of intelligence experts and operatives to quickly break captured mujahideen, with one over-riding objective, to prevent further attacks which all branches of the U.S. government felt were imminent, with the nightmare scenario being some kind of nuclear attack.

According to international law, terrorists, i.e., non-state fighters, in essence really have no rights. Absent an official national affiliation, uniforms and a definable military command structure they are not covered under the Geneva Accords and conceivably could be treated by their captors with whatever level of restraint [or lack thereof] deemed necessary to carry out the mission of preventing further mass casualty incidents.

Important battlefield trophies such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Abu Zubaydah, etc. represented the only database of first-hand knowledge which might be used to unlock of the secrets in the newly forged Islamic book of terror. Hence the pressure to perform weighed heavily on Mitchell's shoulders as there were some quite willing to go to any lengths to extract information from the jihadists…any…

Without recapitulating the entire content of the book, for our purposes we will concentrate on two issues which are of most interest to this writer, first what techniques would come to be employed, how abusive they might be and second and far more fascinating, what the captured terrorists actually thought about the nature of their war.

It was fortuitous that CIA turned to Mitchell because his two decades of military service served as a shield of sorts to counteract whatever ‘bleeding heart-ism" that might have been a natural consequent of what is perceived [probably quite correctly] to be a field rife with liberalism run amok.

In short he had no allusions as to with whom he was dealing, stone cold killers driven by an ideology not well understood in the West, then or…unfortunately for that matter…now.

To a large degree the culture of the West, in modernity, is built upon the idea that all human beings are born with certain rights which cannot be abridged by government. Inalienable in the parlance of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, it is an infraction of our basic moral DNA to treat even hated combatants as if they were mere chattel. Hence the days of barbarously interrogating prisoners in dank dungeons are no more; however the al-Qaeda jihadists as a matter of legal fact [that is until the U.S. judiciary commenced to legislate from the bench] could in theory be treated in a very nasty fashion.

Being a psychologist with very extensive military experience, Mitchell's calculus was sound, resulting from a combination of many factors. He was obviously ethically opposed to interrogation over the spit, but his predilection in this regard was bolstered by an understanding as a professional that anyone can be broken - given sufficient infliction of pain - to confess to just about anything.

Thus he knew that it would serve no useful purpose to brutalize prisoners beyond a certain point because the value of confessions of such questionable worth paled in comparison to being able to craft the type of ongoing power relationships whereby captured enemy fighters might be convinced to provide information on future planned terrorist attacks, really the only thing that mattered.

Now it must be understood that people like Mohammad were in one sense subhuman, unbound by any moral code, to impose their will in advancing the jihad. They were comfortable subjecting prisoners to the full gamut of evil the human mind can comprehend towards that end and as a result would be tough to break under the best of circumstances.

However Mitchell's brilliance stemmed in developing methods that were just tough enough to let the captives know that America just might be willing to go down that dark painful rabbit hole with which they were entirely familiar if they didn't play their card with careful consideration.

The process that developed though not a straight line went something like this:

Prisoners were informed that they had been "disappeared," that for all intents and purposes no longer existed, suggesting that their captors were free to do whatever they wished to them, certainly a psychologically destabilizing realization.

They were then subjected to such things as being hooded, deprived of sleep, subjected to loud music, being stripped nude, held in uncomfortable, but not injurious positions and things of that nature for a period of days to soften them up along the lines of a Pavlovian model.

Some were quickly broken in this manner, others such as KSM were genuinely tough battle-hardened men who had been trained to resist the harshest of interrogations and it was for people like him that waterboarding was developed.

In this writer's opinion waterboarding is NOT torture. It involves binding the party being interrogated to some kind of a platform, perhaps a hospital gurney, tilting them back perhaps 20 degrees or so at which time a cloth is placed over the party's face and a certain amount of water is poured over it.

Though the procedure needn't last very long, it still produces a very keen sensation of drowning. KSM required multiple such sessions before he decided to cooperate to the degree he felt driven.

Point, not all prisoners were treated in this manner, actually it was only necessary with a very few, generally the highest echelon of the captives. Additionally it must be noted that waterboarding is ROUTINELY used by the U.S. military to teach American high value potential targets how to better resist harsh methods should they fall into enemy hands. Yet despite the reality of what waterboarding actually is, how infrequently it was used and the tremendous benefit it provided in certain very hard cases, it is now widely regarded as torture, an absurd proposition.

As techniques were refined however, waterboarding became essentially unnecessary as interrogators settled on the idea that "walling" - whereby a prisoner under very controlled conditions was from a distance of maybe six inches bounced against the cell backing - was coercive enough to break even the toughest subjects. The banging into the cell wall produced shocks in the inner ear and a general sense of disorientation that were excruciating enough to be effective while leaving no lasting physical damage.

Detainees quickly learned that they never wanted to go "there" again and those asking the questions referred to that kind of treatment in a retrospective manner, calling them "the bad or dark days," as in "well we don't ever want to go back there again...do we?"

The prisoners got the message, however not all to the same degree.

Now as to our second question, the one we find most fascinating; what drove these men to put up with such discomfort in service to their mission?

Though the multiculti/progressive media will never admit it, these men were all driven by an identical all-consuming ideology, Islam.

These men understood Islam far better than many Christians and Jews understand their own religions. Many of the detainees had memorized very long portions of the Qur'an which they thoroughly believed to be the very word of God.

Since we aren't in the habit of mincing words we won't…devout Muslims of the type that ended up in GITMO or otherwise renditioned believed that it was their holy mission to impose Islam upon the infidel. In furtherance of this charge they were felt commanded to do anything, commit any evil as long as the purpose was to further the reach of the caliphate.

They viewed their belief structure in a triumphal manner, deep in their psyches they absolutely knew their way of life would eventually prevail or mankind would simply perish in an effort to make that happen.

"At one point he [KSM after he had been "tenderized"] got out of his chair and used hand gestures to illustrate how he cut [Daniel] Pearl's throat. One of us asked him ‘was it hard to do?' meaning, was, ‘it emotionally difficult?' KSM misunderstood the question, ‘Oh, no,' he said, hardly pausing, ‘No problem I had very sharp knives. Just like slaughtering sheep. The only hard part was cutting through the neck bone…" [source, pg. 167]

Again…by ANY means, infidels are no better than farm animals.

An interesting angle regarding their keen understanding of the technicalities of Islam is that it also provided them succor in the time when they were most in need of it. They believed that Allah did not expect every man to endure being tortured to death for his faith. In their way of thinking, Allah knew man was frail, some much more so than others and thus every human had a point beyond which he was no longer under compulsion to refrain from answering the interrogators questions, however obliquely.

It was this type of intimate knowledge that crafty interrogators used to loosen the tongues of the toughest of those who had been captured.

For readers of this book this should stand as a major point. Islam is a enemy threat doctrine just like communism was until the fall of the Soviet Union and without first admitting that it is such and then minutely understanding its complexities there is no way to fight the ideological component of the war which in many ways has - because of this culture's misplaced tolerance and devotion to a corrosive multiculture - been put off limits.

However as experts on such matters such as Sebastian Gorka have repeatedly noted, resisting the kinetic jihad without undertaking a commensurate ideological struggle is as incomprehensible as would have been trying to defeat the Soviets absent engaging them in the war of ideas.

In conclusion, we cannot recommend this book highly enough. Through Dr. Mitchell's eyes one can finally get some grasp of the level of fanaticism and abject devotion the enemy brings to the battle space.

On a personal note I found myself rethinking some of my preconceptions regarding the use of unlimited interrogation techniques on the scum of the earth. Though not comfortable at all with the idea previously, after getting some sense of the landscape surrounding all of these related issues I think that those who blindly think they can go Medieval on another human being without serious repercussions/blowback had better rethink the process.

This type of cruel behavior has been so endemic in the Middle East and within Islamic societies for so long that desensitization has occurred within the populace, much to its detriment.

That however is not the case in the West, and the armchair cowboys out there should ask themselves - any religious considerations aside - how behaving like beasts, even with vile people, would damage our claim to the moral high ground and in a more general manner, indelibly stain a culture that has taken so long and worked so hard to pull itself out of the ethical gutter on such elemental maters.

That consideration aside, Mitchell's subtext makes very clear that not only is genuine torture repellant to civilized societies, in the long run its counter-productive in that one is trading the rush of - a sometimes understandable - blood lust for the equivalent of weaponizing intelligence assets, some of whom can serve in somewhat the same sense of the gift that keeps on giving.

©2016 PipeLineNews.org LLC, William Mayer. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.


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