Meet the Torturers

In a detailed and harrowing account, the Washington Post tells the story of Abu Zubaida's 2002 interrogation, a key event in the White House's decision to abandon traditional restrictions on torture techniques and one that divided anti-torture intelligence officials over its effectiveness and morality. According to the Post, the point man for devising elaborate "enhanced" interrogation techniques was James Mitchell, a retired clinical psychologist for the Air Force. After becoming unsatisfied with intelligence gathering by FBI agents, Mitchell gained authorization over the agents' objections to use escalating techniques, beginning with sleep deprivation and loud music and moving on to extreme temperatures, slamming the prisoner into plywood walls, and placing him in a small box. Eventually he was waterboarded 83 times. While one of the FBI agents, Ali Soufan, has testified that the techniques produced little intelligence, the Post cites officials who claim that Zubaida gave up information on Jose Padilla, convicted of aiding Al Qaeda, and on Al Qaeda member Ramzi Binalshibh, that could not have been obtained otherwise.