How to Break a Terrorist

The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq

By Alexander, Matthew & Bruning, John R.

Publishers Summary:
Finding Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, had long been the U.S. military's top priority -- trumping even the search for Osama bin Laden. No brutality was spared in trying to squeeze intelligence from Zarqawi's suspected associates. But these "force on force" techniques yielded exactly nothing, and, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal, the military rushed a new breed of interrogator to Iraq.Matthew Alexander, a former criminal investigator and head of a handpicked interrogation team, gives us the first inside look at the U.S. military's attempt at more civilized interrogation techniques -- and their astounding success. The intelligence coup that enabled the June 7, 2006, air strike onZarqawi's rural safe house was the result of several keenly strategized interrogations, none of which involved torture or even "control" tactics.Matthew and his team decided instead to get to know their opponents. Who were these monsters? Who were they working for? What were they trying to protect? Every day the "'gators" matched wits with a rogues' gallery of suspects brought in by Special Forces ("door kickers"): egomaniacs, bloodthirsty adolescents, opportunistic stereo repairmen, Sunni clerics horrified by the sectarian bloodbath, Al Qaeda fanatics, and good people in the wrong place at the wrong time. With most prisoners, negotiation was possible and psychological manipulation stunningly effective. But Matthew's commitment to cracking the case with these methods sometimes isolated his superiors and put his own career at risk.This account is an unputdownable thriller -- more of a psychological suspense story than a war memoir. And indeed, the story reaches far past the current conflict in Iraq with a reminder that we don't have to become our enemy to defeat him. Matthew Alexander and his ilk, subtle enough and flexible enough to adapt to the challenges of modern, asymmetrical warfare, have proved to be our best weapons against terrorists all over the world.

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ISBN
978-1-41657-315-9
Publisher
Free Press


REVIEWS

Library Journal

Reviewed on April 13, 2009

Verdict: While Alexander does use military lingo, the tone of the book is conversational, with short chapters. Serious military action is tempered with humor, though those sensitive to violence should be aware that there are several descriptions of brutal killings. Recommended. Background: Alexander (a pseudonym), a former U.S. Air Force investigator, was hired to assist the army in interrogating al Qaeda suspects in Iraq after the controversy over techniques used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay (and their subsequent failure to provide much useful information). The military turned to Alexander's approach of respect, rapport, hope, cunning, and deception, positioning him and his team of "'gators" at the forefront of the mission to find and kill Abu Musab al Zarqawi, head of al Qaeda in Iraq. Because Alexander's techniques were new, his ideas, he relates, were not accepted by everyone; weak leaders and jealous peers presented obstacles to his success, and he put his career in jeopardy to complete the mission. Names and identifying details have been changed and the work was submitted to the Department of Defense for vetting prior to publication, with redacted portions left in situ.-Jenny Seftas, Southwest Florida Coll., Fort Myers, FL Copyright 2009 Media Source Inc. Copyright 2009 Media Source Inc. ...Log In or Sign Up to Read More

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