Book Review: Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America by James E. Mitchell Ph.D.

Enhanced Interrogation is the book that should have been written 10 years ago when the hype about America torturing captured terrorists was at its height.  Unfortunately, it has only appeared now when false “facts” and attitudes towards the interrogation of terrorists have settled into the collective psyche of the left and attained a life of their own.

The book itself is 300 pages of text divided into twelve mostly chronological chapters detailing the establishment, working, and closing down of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program during the Bush administration in the months and years immediately following the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Dr. Mitchell was a psychologist who worked at the USAF SERE school before retiring and being hired by the CIA to help set up and run the post 9/11 interrogation program.  He and a longtime friend and colleague developed the Ehanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT), set the program up, and conducted the interrogations of several of the high profile terrorists captured post 9/11 including Abu Jubaydah and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, both of whom were waterboarded.

The book details how the program was established, where the authority for enhanced interrogation came from, how it was overseen, and most importantly how it was ended by short-sighted sensationalism.  One of the things about the book that I found most interesting was the story about how the EIT techniques were envisioned and how they were administered.  It is striking on how little like torture they were when explained minus the hyperbole.  The lion’s share of what the techniques did was get the terrorists to be more amenable to non-coercive psychological interrogation techniques and act as an ever present background to keep them talking. It should not surprise anyone that after the program was ended and the threat of renewed EITs was removed most terrorists who had been subjected to them clammed up and stopped talking.

The last few chapters deal with how the program ended and the aftermath as several investigations were conducted during the Obama administration.  It is instructive that despite all the high flying rhetoric about torture nobody was charged with criminal wrongdoing in regards to the CIA program.  The author and several other people involved with the program did have their good name smeared and reputations ruined after being outed during the course of the investigations as “torturers” but they were not charged.

The author actually states in the foreword that one of his main motivations in penning the book was to attempt to clear his name and that of some of those he worked with.  In that he does a pretty good job but unfortunately those that have already decided he is a torturer will probably not reads this book nor would they likely be persuaded to change their mind if they did.

This an excellently written, matter of fact account of the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Program from someone who was not only on the inside but was also instrumental in its development and implementation.  If you want to know what it was really like and what was really done this is the book to start with.  I highly recommend this book.