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Testimony of a Senior Interrogator

In his article "War is Loud," in the December 2006 issue of Spin Magazine, David Peisner reports the testimony of a Guantanamo interrogator Tom, who requested his last name be withheld for security reasons. Tom began working as an interrogator in the early 80's. He served in a senior position at Guantanamo in early 2002 and in a similar capacity in Afghanistan. After leaving the military, he worked for a government agency he's not permitted to name, both in Iraq and at secret prisons around the world, often dealing with those considered 'high value' prisoners. He cautions against taking ex-detainees at their word, noting that they've learned to 'exploit the media.' In particular, he calls Shafiq Rasul, whom he interrogated in Guantanamo, 'a lying sack of shit.'" Here is Tom's testimony in David Peisner's article.

(WL1) Shortly after Tom arrived at Guantanamo, some PsyOp [= Psychological Operations] soldiers convinced the guards to play Neil Diamond's "America" over the loudspeakers. "It was to try to keep the prisoners agitated and from talking to one another," he explains. "We wanted to prevent them from keeping each others' spirits up and emboldening one another to resist interrogation." The results were disastrous. "It just about caused an all-out riot. Strict interpreters of Islam are forbidden from listening to music. The whole place basically erupted" (Peisner 2006, 90).

(WL2) Tom makes an ethical distinction between blasting music for the purposes of interrogation and using it to disorient a recent capture. "If [the detainee] is accustomed to his surroundings and you force him to listen to Limp Bizkit, that's clearly an interrogation tactic," he says. "That would only be used in very rare situations, to annoy someone to the point where their only way out is you. To me, the only purpose of that is to drive someone nuts, and that constitutes torture. When we use it at remote facilities, it's to maintain what we call 'the shock of capture,'" Tom continues. "The hardest cases to break are those guys that sit there and smugly smile because they know we're not going to beat them up or rip their fingernails out. So we use music to keep them from knowing what time it is, from communicating with others or hearing sounds that would help orient them." (Peisner 2006, 90).

(WL3) Tom, the former interrogator, says that, while [at Guantanamo], he recommended through the chain of command that SERE instructors come to Cuba to teach counterresistance techniques. "But," he says, "it didn't happen while I was there." (Peisner 2006, 91).

CSHRA Note: SERE is a harsh military program created after the Korean War to train American soldiers to survive capture by the enemy (see Benjamin 2005). The program's name is an acronym for "Survive, Evade, Resist, and Escape".