The Consequences Today of the United States' Brutal Post-9/11 Interrogation Techniques

57 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2014 Last revised: 14 Apr 2016

See all articles by Peter Jan Honigsberg

Peter Jan Honigsberg

University of San Francisco - School of Law

Date Written: April 13, 2016


Commentators and researchers have written on the harsh and unlawful tactics that military interrogators employed to obtain actionable intelligence from suspected terrorists following the attacks on September 11, 2001. However, no one has painted the picture of these interrogations through the words of identified and named interrogators. This article does that, by focusing on the words and unique stories of five interrogators. The article then explores the unintended consequences that are still with us today because of the military's enhanced interrogation techniques. Much of the information in this article is not found to this detail anywhere else in the literature, even after the publication of the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in December 2014.

One interrogator, known as the "King of Torture," worked for the Department of Defense (DoD) in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2002. A second also worked for the DoD in Bagram, and was the interrogator for Dilawar, one of the two Afghans who died in the Bagram detention center from brutal treatment and torture. Two other interrogators were military interrogators in Guantanamo (one, a woman, holds a Ph.D from Yale). The fifth was an interrogator for the FBI. In speaking to the Witness to Guantanamo project, these four men and one woman tell a remarkable story of the evolution of interrogations beginning after the attacks on September 11, 2001 through 2003.

Tensions during this time period existed between experienced federal law enforcement agents, who focused on a "rapport-based" method to obtain admissible evidence, and the DoD leadership, whose focus was on actionable intelligence. The DoD leadership instructed young and inexperienced military soldiers and reservists to engage in enhanced interrogation techniques comparable to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture. Although many of the military interrogators did not have the proper training to interrogate alleged terrorist prisoners, they were given wide latitude, and were only limited by their imagination. Their often untested and "helter-skelter" interrogation techniques led to the unintended consequences set out in this article.

In a nutshell, the article reviews the military's brutal interrogation techniques, that included torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (CIDT) and compares and contrasts the tactics to the rapport building interrogation techniques promoted and conducted by law enforcement. It then outlines the unintended consequences that are with us today as a result of the military's brutal treatment committed more than a decade ago. The article closes with suggestions on how the U.S. can again be seen by many as the beacon of human rights and the rule of law.

The Witness to Guantanamo project has filmed interviews with 132 people, including 49 former detainees, who have lived or worked at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The author is the founder and director of the Witness to Guantanamo project.

Keywords: interrogation, enhanced interrogation, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, interrogators, Bagram, Guantanamo, Department of Defense, FBI, rapport-building interrogation, admissible evidence, actionable intelligence, oral history, interviews, Witness to Guantanamo Project

Suggested Citation

Honigsberg, Peter Jan, The Consequences Today of the United States' Brutal Post-9/11 Interrogation Techniques (April 13, 2016). Univ. of San Francisco Law Research Paper No. 2014-22, Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Peter Jan Honigsberg (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco - School of Law ( email )

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San Francisco, CA 94117
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