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The plot goes like this: A CIA agent is given the task of interrogating a prisoner who is believed to be a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda and could lead the U.S. to Osama bin Laden. The prisoner has been kidnapped off the street in an unnamed Middle Eastern country.

The only problem? Over the course of the interrogation, the agent concludes the CIA has the wrong man. He advises his masters of his conclusions.

But the CIA doesn’t listen. It instructs the agent to press harder. The spy agency believes the prisoner’s refusal to answer certain questions is proof of his guilt.

When he still fails to reveal anything, the CIA sends both the prisoner, known as Captus, and his interrogator to Hotel California — the CIA’s most secret detention centre — where the prisoner is tortured.

A page-turner, right? Well, this tale is not the creation of a master of spy thrillers. Glenn Carle, a former CIA officer with 23 years in the service, lived it….

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FPIF Review: The Interrogator

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Glenn Carle has spent his whole professional life operating in the grey world of intelligence. As a case officer for the CIA for over two decades, he spent time in many of the Agency’s most critical outposts, from Nicaragua to Lebanon to Iraq. The world he operated in was complex and obscure, a world that lacks certainty.

Yet at the end of his career, when he was “surged” to direct the interrogation of a suspected high-level member of al-Qaeda, he was confronted with the policies of an administration that even in the grey world crossed a line that made him certain that he must stand up against what he knew to be wrong.

Through 300 pages of sometimes heavily redacted material, Carle recounts his intimate involvement in the interrogation of the High-Value Target, CAPTUS. Rendered from the streets of an unnamed Middle Eastern country and spirited to one of the dozens of appropriately termed CIA “black sites,” CAPTUS is thought to have detailed information regarding al-Qaeda, perhaps even the location of bin Laden and his closest associates, information that Carle has been instructed to extract by whatever means necessary.

The Agency and others might want to dismiss Carle as a malcontent airing sordid internal affairs. However this is clearly not the case. Carle’s book reveals the level to which the Agency has become corrupted or simply apathetic. What was the life of one man when balanced against the safety and security of the people the Agency was sworn to protect? By entering into this Faustian bargain in the hopes of securing itself from external threat, the Bush administration and the Agency were willing to compromise the core values and ideals they were meant to protect.

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Uncle Sam’s secrets

Uncle Sam’s secrets

Truth, justice and the American way are subjective ideals – not absolutes – a lesson this spy-turned-author learnt, writes Steve Meacham.

It’s no secret Glenn Carle’s revealing autobiography, The Interrogator: A CIA Agent’s True Story, is unlike most books. Large parts of his 300-odd page account are blacked out. Sometimes it is just a word or two, sometimes it’s virtually an entire page.

The deletions – or ”redacted passages” in CIA-speak – were ordered by the Central Intelligence Agency. Although Carle retired in March 2007 after 23 years as a spy – or member of the agency’s ”Clandestine Service” – he had promised to publish nothing about his experiences without vigorous official vetting.

So the book comes with a warning: ”All statements of fact, opinion, or analysis expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official positions or views of the CIA or any other US government agency. Nothing in the contents should be construed as asserting or implying US government authentication of information or Agency endorsement of the author’s views. This material has been reviewed by the CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information.”


Journey into the CIA’s heart of darkness: Ex-agent reveals ‘torture’ of terror suspect in secret prison dubbed ‘Hotel California’

From the Sunday London Times: A former CIA operative has described how he was torn between serving his country and refusing to ‘torture’ a man he believed was innocent.

Glenn Carle has written a shocking new tell-all memoir detailing his time with the agency in which he confessed that some people would call him a ‘torturer’.

Though the CIA has already redacted 40 per cent of his book in a two-year battle to get it published, Carle was still able to provide a vivid account of his journey to a CIA ‘black site’ or secret prison.

There, he said, he spent 10 intense days psychologically manipulating a man who the agency believed could hand them Osama Bin Laden – but who Carle believed was innocent.

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“The Interrogator:” A CIA insider’s crisis of conscience
In a secret prison, a true believer in the war on terror realized he was tormenting an innocent man

“The situation had become Kafkaesque,” writes Glenn Carle toward the end of “The Interrogator: An Education,” his new memoir. Boy, he ain’t kidding; the author of “The Trial” and “The Metamorphosis” would have appreciated this narrative on any number of levels. Carle worked for the CIA for 23 years, in Africa, the Balkans and Latin America, among other locales, but the focus of his book is the several-month period he spent questioning a suspected leader of al-Qaida in two countries he is not permitted to name.

There’s quite a lot Carle isn’t allowed to say in “The Interrogator.” Many lines and words on these pages have been masked with black bars to indicate what “the Agency” forbade him to publish. “I have written this book literally a dozen times over,” the author notes in his afterword, explaining that he was willing to address “legitimate” CIA concerns when it came to revelations about its “sources and methods.”

But such objections were, as Carle makes abundantly clear, amply mixed with ludicrous pettifoggery and ass-covering. This annoyed him enough that he decided to leave in the redacted bits, complete with black bars, and add the occasional withering explanatory footnote, like one that reads: “Apparently the CIA fears that the redacted passage would either humiliate the organization for incompetence or expose its officers to ridicule; unless the Agency considers obtuse incompetence a secret intelligence method.”

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‘Some Will Call Me a Torturer’: CIA Man Reveals Secret Jail
‘Some Will Call Me a Torturer’: CIA Man Reveals Secret Jail
By Spencer Ackerman

Admitting that “some will call me a torturer” is a surefire way to cut yourself off from anyone’s sympathy. But Glenn Carle, a former CIA operative, isn’t sure whether he’s the hero or the villain of his own story.

Distilled, that story, told in Carle’s new memoir The Interrogator, is this: In the months after 9/11, the CIA kidnaps a suspected senior member of al-Qaida and takes him to a Mideast country for interrogation. It assigns Carle — like nearly all his colleagues then, an inexperienced interrogator — to pry information out of him. Uneasy with the CIA’s new, relaxed rules for questioning, which allow him to torture, Carle instead tries to build a rapport with the man he calls CAPTUS.

But CAPTUS doesn’t divulge the al-Qaida plans the CIA suspects him of knowing. So the agency sends him to “Hotel California” — an unacknowledged prison, beyond the reach of the Red Cross or international law.

Carle goes with him. Though heavily censored by the CIA, Carle provides the first detailed description of a so-called “black site.” At an isolated “discretely guarded, unremarkable” facility in an undisclosed foreign country (though one where the Soviets once operated), hidden CIA interrogators work endless hours while heavy metal blasts captives’ eardrums and disrupts their sleep schedules.

Afterward, the operatives drive to a fortified compound to munch Oreos and drink somberly to Grand Funk Railroad at the “Jihadi Bar.” Any visitor to Guantanamo Bay’s Irish pub — O’Kellys, home of the fried pickle — will recognize the surreality.

But Carle — codename: REDEMPTOR — comes to believe CAPTUS is innocent.

“We had destroyed the man’s life based on an error,” he writes. But the black site is a bureaucratic hell: CAPTUS’ reluctance to tell CIA what it wants to hear makes the far-off agency headquarters more determined to torture him. Carle’s resistance, shared by some at Hotel California, makes him suspect. He leaves CAPTUS in the black site after 10 intense days, questioning whether his psychological manipulation of CAPTUS made him, ultimately, a torturer himself.

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Fifth Degree, Second Thoughts

Wall Street Journal
Fifth Degree, Second Thoughts
The best way to get information from a detainee? Rapport, personal trust and . . . manipulation.

A persistent and damaging national-security myth is that in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks a dispute developed between the FBI and the CIA over the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. The intelligence agency was uniformly in favor, or so the story went, and the FBI was strongly opposed. What should have been a simple question about efficacy (what is the fastest and best way to gain reliable information from terrorists?) was transformed into a highly charged debate in which facts were discarded and emotions ran high.

In “The Interrogator: An Education,” Glenn Carle, a 23-year CIA veteran who retired in 2007, confirms what I knew from my own experience as an FBI agent at the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba and at so-called black sites: It would be a struggle to find a CIA operative who endorses the use of enhanced-interrogation techniques. The agency’s supporters of such measures were predominately political appointees and desk officials, not professional field operatives. Anyone with actual interrogation experience knows that rapport-building techniques, which use knowledge to outwit detainees and gain cooperation, produce better intelligence than enhanced interrogation.

I served alongside CIA officers in interrogation rooms at Guantanamo and at black sites. I saw the officers disagree with instructions to start using coercive interrogation and demand to have the orders in writing; some even left the locations in protest. CIA officers also complained to their inspector general, John Helgerson, who conducted an investigation and produced a report in 2004, later released by the Obama administration, that was critical of enhanced interrogation techniques, or EITs. This is why I’ve publicly opposed calls to prosecute CIA officers involved in the interrogations: The officers registered their protests through the channels available.

The officials behind the enhanced-interrogation program, to prevent criticism, over-classified everything to do with it. They fought to prevent the declassification of the CIA’s Inspector General Report—it wasn’t released to the public until April 2009, and then with heavy redactions. The officials also wrote secret memos making false claims about the successes of the interrogations and allowed only officials supportive of the techniques to speak publicly.

Mr. Carle’s book pulls back part of the curtain. In “The Interrogator,” he describes being sent to a foreign country to provide linguistic support in the interrogation of a detainee, but he then took over the process because of what he perceived as a colleague’s incompetence. Mr. Carle, whom I’ve never met, had success in getting the detainee to open up, discovering that “interrogation called for the same skills and approaches as those of a good case officer: developing rapport, personal trust, a bond between the two individuals, and, of course, manipulation.”

He learned that they had captured the wrong person: “We had misread the man; he was not a jihadist or a member of al-Qa’ida; he did not warrant transfer to Hotel California”—a black site where coercion would be used—”and doing so would serve no useful purpose.”

But his analysis was ignored. Headquarters insisted that the detainee was lying and that he was a high-level operative; he was moved to the black site. Mr. Carle soon left frustrated, but first he fired off two cables listing mistakes made and reiterating his analysis. On returning to headquarters, he says, he found no trace of his cables in the system. Two years later he bumped into the colleague who had taken over from him and learned that the colleague had come to the same conclusion as Mr. Carle. Eventually the detainee was released.

Mr. Carle’s assessment of why headquarters’ analysis was so wrong echoes that of the CIA inspector general, who wrote: “The Agency lacked adequate linguists or subject matter experts and had very little hard knowledge of what particular Al-Qaida leaders—who later became detainees—knew. This lack of knowledge led analysts to speculate about what a detainee ‘should know.’ . . . If a detainee did not respond to a question posed to him, the assumption at Headquarters was that the detainee was holding back and knew more; consequently, Headquarters recommended resumption of EITs.” Declassified memos indicate that Abu Zubaydah, one of the first prisoners subjected to coercive techniques, ran into this approach: Analysts at headquarters believed he was the No. 3 in command of al Qaeda; on that basis they determined that he wasn’t cooperating and that EITs were needed. In reality, he wasn’t even a member of the group. (He was a senior terrorist facilitator, which we had already known from operations years earlier.)

Mr. Carle observed a disturbing tendency of those giving the orders: questioning the patriotism of those engaging in critical thinking. When he questioned the wisdom of using coercive techniques, Mr. Carle says, he was asked: “Which flag do you serve?”

At the FBI, our director, Robert Mueller, barred any involvement in coercive interrogations. Our CIA counterparts were not so lucky—and their bosses didn’t stop the false narrative of an institution-wide clash between the CIA and FBI. But Mr. Carle doesn’t blame George Tenet, the CIA director during this period, or other senior agency officials. “The institution and its leaders also fell victim to the perennial problem in the intelligence business,” Mr. Carle says, “that one usually finds what one is looking for.” At a minimum, a system needs to be put in place to discourage such self-delusion.

Mr. Soufan, an FBI supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005, is chairman of the Soufan Group, a strategic intelligence consultancy.

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