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Former Interrogator Says CIA's Techniques Amounted To Torture


We're going to turn now to Tony Camerino. He's a former military interrogator and a strong opponent of the type of enhanced interrogation techniques detailed in yesterday's report. Camerino has personally conducted or supervised more than 1,300 interrogations during his career in the Air Force and he's the author of "Kill Or Capture" and "How To Break A Terrorist." Both books were written under the pseudonym Matthew Alexander.

Tony Camerino, welcome to the program.

TONY CAMERINO: Hello, Robert.

SIEGEL: And first, tell us about how the military trained you to be an interrogator and what the guiding principles of that training were.

CAMERINO: Well, I was trained first on traditional criminal investigative interrogation methods, which are rapport-based methods. And then later when I went through the Army's interrogator training, I learned to interrogate using the methods in the Army Field Manual, which again, are based on rapport-building procedures and gaining trust of a detainee.

SIEGEL: As for the enhanced interrogation techniques the CIA used, would they be outside the bounds of what you were taught and would you consider them to be torture?

CAMERINO: I would consider them to be torture or at the minimum, they would be abuse and they would definitely violate the law, which is the minimum treatment would be cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.

SIEGEL: There're two different discussions about those techniques. One of them is whether they violate standards of morality or law. Now, the other one is whether they're effective and whether you can get information out of a suspect through threats or use of force, or whether you get bad information that way. How do you come down on those two questions?

CAMERINO: My first opposition to torture is because it's immoral and because also it's unlawful. But on the issue of effectiveness, you know, we can't say that torture won't occasionally produce a piece of true information. What we can say is that in the long-term view, the negative consequences will always outweigh any positive results that we get from using coercion as a technique.

SIEGEL: You've participated in interrogations that helped locate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, and I know you've said that you obtained that intelligence without using so-called enhanced methods. What techniques did you use?

CAMERINO: Well, the technique we used to find Zarqawi was through one of his close religious advisors. And on that detainee, we used the pride and ego up approach, through which you stroke a detainee's ego, make them feel important. Essentially give them the ability to exert their own influence by helping to make Iraq safer by helping us find Zarqawi, but also through the use of compassion. You know, one of the things that I used most frequently was sympathizing with the Sunni cause in Iraq, that they were - had joined al-Qaida mostly to defend their families and not because of some type of religious ideology.

SIEGEL: Did you experience or were you aware of in Iraq, say, people who in the heat of the moment, people stepped over these lines sometimes because the situation just seemed too urgent to them to engage in a patient interrogation with someone?

CAMERINO: Well, we felt that all our interrogations were ticking time bomb scenarios because we were literally chasing the people behind the suicide bombing attacks. For myself and members of my team, we didn't ever feel that just because we were dealing with ticking time bombs that that would justify sacrificing our morals or violating the law.

SIEGEL: On the one hand, Tony Camerino, as you described it, the military - the Army's approach and what the Air Force did in terms of interrogation was quite different from the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques. On the other hand, the most notorious abuse of detainees in Iraq, the one that probably did more to alienate more people against the U.S. war effort, was at Abu Ghraib - at the prison at Abu Ghraib - because it was photographed so extensively. And that wasn't the CIA, I mean, those were reservists, in fact. They were people drawn out of American civilian life.

CAMERINO: Yes and I think we also need to remember that the Senate's report only covers the CIA enhanced interrogation program, but the military was also using EIT's, and much more widely and much more frequently than the CIA ever did. And we know numerous cases in which EITs were used against detainees, many of whom later proved to be innocent.

SIEGEL: Mr. Camerino, thank you very much for talking with us today.

CAMERINO: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: That's Tony Camerino, former senior military interrogator and author of the books "Kill Or Capture" and "How To Break A Terrorist." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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