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Did I mention this was a true story?

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.

Time supplies the pertinent background information:

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.

Unsurprisingly, Abu Jandal did everything in his power to not cooperate with the American interrogators. He went on rants about how the United States was evil and intimidated guards to a point where they felt they had to mask their identities. So naturally, Soufan and company were faced with a choice regarding what to do next: would they employ "enhanced interrogation techniques" or would they try something else?

Soufan noticed that Abu Jandal did not eat any of the cookies that were brought to him. This was because he was diabetic. So when it came time to question him further, the Americans brought sugar-free cookies. The result?

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."

Dear God, a human gesture yields human dialogue? Whoddathunkit? I'm not under the illusion that methods of this nature will work each time we employ them, but this is an example of a broader strategy we should be adopting that Bill Clinton summed up perfectly in his DNC speech: "People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."

Anyway, aren't patronizing quotes like this funny now?

Liberals want us to offer captured terrorists tea and cookies to get information from them.

Originally posted to The Erratic Synapse on Fri May 29, 2009 at 07:25 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sugar-boarding (7+ / 0-)

    Kill them with kindness.  There is nothing wrong with America, just Americans.

  •  It's those cookie elves (10+ / 0-)

    Al-Keebler has a very effective recruitment technique.

    You can't reason someone out of something they weren't reasoned into. - Jonathan Swift

    by A Mad Mad World on Fri May 29, 2009 at 07:31:51 PM PDT

    •  have i got newz for you... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Angie in WA State

      Want to liven up a business meeting and get the creative juices flowing?

      Just bring along a package of Keebler's "Chocolate Lover's Chips Deluxe."

      About 15 minutes after folks start nibbling, the creative gears engage and stuff starts happening.

      Works

      every

      time.

      I don't know if it's because of the extra chocolate in those cookies or what, but they really do the trick.

  •  I recall hearing something similar (9+ / 0-)

    from the investigators who interrogated the various defendants and witnesses in preparation for the Nuremburg Trials.  They didn't use harsh techniques.  It was quite the opposite.  They used approaches designed to win their subject's trust.  They claimed that they were very successful.

    "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Gandhi

    by Triscula on Fri May 29, 2009 at 07:34:09 PM PDT

  •  "Desserts Aren't Always Right, Homer" (3+ / 0-)

    "--But they're so sweeeeeet."

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri May 29, 2009 at 07:36:42 PM PDT

  •  I get the "tea and cookies" newspaper (7+ / 0-)

    Great diary! The "tea and cookies" quote comes from my local paper, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in Massachusetts (this is a very conservative region, by Massachusetts standards). I've got a current story about that paper.

    I wrote a diary (my first) about torture & decided to submit it as a Letter to the Editor. It was rejected as too long. So I sent it to the editorial editor, asking if it could be used in some form as a "my view" editorial.

    He replied and even offered to review a second draft. He criticized me for not citing sources, which is completely valid. I originally wrote it with footnotes to web links, which I stripped out for the letter to the editor, and I did not rewrite it before asking the editor's opinion.

    He was also nice enough to explain just what he thinks is wrong with my arguments. Here's what he wrote:

    Larry,

    I find this piece to be overstated, at the least, and unpersuasive, particularly with regard to your claim that "Recently revealed documents show that the administration then ordered increasingly brutal torture to be applied to prisoners until such a link was confessed. This false information was a key justification for invading Iraq..."

    The alleged 9/11-Iraq link was a very minor part of the equation prior to the Iraq invasion. The Bush administration's case rested primarily on the threat of WMD and the instability such weapons posed to the region, as well as the Baathist regime's history of violence toward its ethnic minorities. You will recall, of course, that there was strong bipartisan support for the resolutions authorizing the war, and that there was nothing in those resolutions regarding 9/11.

    If, as you claim, "recently revealed documents" argue otherwise, it would be incumbent upon you to cite those documents and explain to readers how and why they are accurate and how they support your contentions that the 9/11-Iraq link -- a tenuous one, to be sure -- contributed to the invasion of Iraq, as well as to the patterns of torture.

    The other side of the argument also merits your attention, namely, that the release of al Qaeda detainees/enemy combatants from Guantanamo has cost American lives. Among the "recently released documents" I am aware of are government reports citing a recidivism rate of up to 14 percent, with names of real terrorists who were in custody, were released, and fought again, killing Americans and/or our allies, innocent civilians, etc. In addition, there is strong evidence that the interrogation techniques employed -- briefly, it must be said -- at Guantanamo Bay, did in fact produce information useful to the U.S. military in the War on Terror.

    You would be welcome to rework the piece you submitted to address these concerns, and I would be happy to review a future draft. Alternatively, you could limit your thoughts to the 250-word limit offered in the letter to the editor format, which also gives you greater latitude to state opinions and make assertions such as the ones you offer. We generally do not block publication of letters written along those lines, even when we feel the assertions are not and likely cannot be backed by facts. There is a lot of room for interpretation and you're free to call it like you see it. The "As I See It" op-ed format simply demands a higher standard that the piece you submitted is nowhere close to meeting.

    Sincerely,

    Chris

    Chris Sinacola
    Editor, Editorial Pages
    Telegram & Gazette

    I thanked him for his feedback and said that I could certainly supply sources. I not sure that I'll be able to produce something he'd print, given the things he is certain of, but it seems worth a try. Reading DailyKos, well, daily, has given me a lot of sources that counter his points. I'd always welcome more.

  •  24 scenario (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phoenix Woman, G2geek, ExStr8

    Ticking time bomb averted by administering the Twinkies treatment.  Naw, the ratings would blow up, even though the bomb didn't.  ;  - )

    A few give much, a few give all, most Americans give....NOTHING! ~~~ Support our troops - Bring them home

    by Hound Dog on Fri May 29, 2009 at 07:58:30 PM PDT

  •  Very good diary. Important info. Many thanks. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Phoenix Woman, Calfacon
  •  They tortured to Cover Up Cheney's WMD LIES (0+ / 0-)

    Anyone undergoing torture would eventually say anything the torturer wanted to hear To Stop The Torture.

    The Bush/Cheney Torturers tortured to get False Info
    that Covered Up Their
    Iraq WMD Lies.

    We've got to find a way to pressure Congress
    to start a Commission of Inquiry.

    How to do that?

    SIGN THE PETITION To Prosecute Bush's Torturers ANGRYVOTERS.ORG Over 250,000 signed - Add your Signature Today

    by 1stProtestInTheStreet on Sat May 30, 2009 at 08:11:21 AM PDT

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