Ex-FBI Agent: Harsh Interrogation Doesn't Work

ByABC News via via logo

Sept. 16, 2006 — -- Amid a debate between President Bush and bipartisan members of Congress over how harshly to question terror detainees, a former FBI agent said some of the most aggressive interrogation techniques in dispute are rarely effective anyway.

"Generally speaking, those don't work," said Jack Cloonan, a former FBI agent and an ABC News consultant.

"I think water boarding is one we've all heard about, and I think the public understands what the term means," Cloonan told Bill Weir on ABC News' "Good Morning America Weekend." "We sort of fake drown somebody."

This week, President Bush felt strong backlash against his campaign to legalize aggressive interrogation procedures, even from fellow Republicans.

Having questioned many subjects himself, Cloonan knows the goals of those leading interrogations.

"They want to induce stress and they want to get information from these people very quickly," he said.

Cloonan said there are more fruitful practices.

"Knowing the subject matter, building rapport and having that time to get that person to know you works, and I've done it many times," he said.

Because those being interrogated expect to be tortured, they're caught off guard by non-violent approaches, and often release information more easily, Cloonan said.

"In their manual it says the opposition will torture you, so they expect it," he said. "When you don't do it, it has the opposite effect."

Among interrogators, Cloonan says there's always been a moral debate about torture.

"Some people think it works, some people don't," he said. "The boss has made the decision, now it's a question of giving these people protection."

Cloonan dismissed the notion of the "ticking time-bomb" scenario in which interrogators must beat information out of someone quickly to prevent an attack.

"Let's deal with the reality of the situation: Generally speaking, that's not going to happen," he said. "It doesn't happen in the real world, so we don't need to go to that level."

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