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But do the techniques in the manual give interrogators adequate ammunition in the war on terrorism? The military stands firmly by its document. In a May 2007 letter to troops in Iraq, General David Petraeus wrote, "Our experience in applying the interrogation standards laid out in the Army Field Manual ... published last year shows that the techniques in the manual work effectively and humanely in eliciting information from detainees."
The CIA turned down a request from TIME for comment about current interrogation techniques and the Army Field Manual. But some agency veterans say the manual, while serving as a good starting point, is ultimately inadequate against hardened al-Qaeda operatives. "There's a feeling among [some current agency staffers] that the Army Field Manual is useless against the really bad guys," says a retired CIA staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Typically, these guys have been through brutal torture by the authorities in their own countries Yemen, Jordan, Egypt so they're not going to talk if you just tickle the soles of their feet." Although the staffer is himself opposed to the harshest techniques used at Gitmo, he believes several harsh techniques should have been retained.
Even those who oppose all forms of harsh interrogation are not convinced that the Army manual is adequate. Matthew Alexander, a former military interrogator in Iraq, says he found "police interrogation techniques much more appropriate" when questioning al-Qaeda operatives and Sunni insurgents. Alexander, who uses a pseudonym for security reasons, is the author of How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq. His interrogations led to the location and killing of Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi.
Alexander says many of the interrogation tactics used by police forces across the U.S. should be incorporated into the Army's manual. Cops, he says, routinely use various forms of deception to extract information or confessions. "You arrest two suspects you tell them, separately, that the first one to talk gets a deal," he says. "Every police detective in the U.S. knows this." Another common technique used by cops is to allow a suspect to shift the blame for his crime to something or someone else. "You find out that a suspected child molester was himself molested as a child, and you say, 'It's O.K. We understand why you did it,' " says Alexander. Cops also learn how to take a statement made by one suspect and use it against another. These techniques are not ruled out by the Army manual, but Alexander believes they should be specifically included as recommended techniques.
For those who think the Army manual is inadequate, there's still hope for change. Obama has set up a Special Interagency Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies to, among other things, "study and evaluate whether the interrogation practices and techniques in [the Army Field Manual], when employed by departments or agencies outside the military, provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the nation, and, if warranted, to recommend any additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies." Chaired by Attorney General Eric Holder, the task force must submit its recommendations by the end of July.