How to Break a Terrorist

How to Break a Terrorist : The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq

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In the wake of the torture scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the government has rushed to Iraq a new breed of interrogator. Matthew Alexander, a former criminal investigator and head of a crack interrogation team, tells the story of how he and his team used psychological warfare to track down Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The interrogator's job is simple: get the right information in a timely fashion. Finding Abu Musab Zarqawi had long been the US military's top priority--even trumping the search for Osama Bin Laden. No brutality was spared in trying to squeeze information from detainees. But when the Military brought in Matthew the exertions of Special Forces had yielded exactly nothing. So Matthew and his team decided to sit down and get to know their opponents. Who were these monsters so impervious to violence? Who were they fighting for? What were they trying to protect? The intelligence coup that enabled the June 7, 2006 air strike on Zarqawi's rural safe house northeast of Baghdad was the result of a painstaking and dramatic manhunt, but it was not the result of what Matthew calls "force on force" interactions. First featured in an Atlanticcover story by Mark Bowden, this is more of a true-crime or psychological suspense story than a war more

Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 142.24 x 220.98 x 33.02mm | 294.83g
  • The Free Press
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • index; 8pp b+w photos; 4 illust t-o
  • 1416573151
  • 9781416573159
  • 641,028

Review quote

"[T]his is an excellent account of a high-profile victory in the often-hidden intelligence war that is at the heart of the U.S. effort in Iraq... It is generally agreed that the Global War on Terrorism is first and foremost an intelligence war. Alexander's story offers us an absorbing behind-the=scenes look at the secret intelligence war within a war." -- www.military.comshow more

Review Text

We don't have to become our enemies to defeat them," declares a U.S. Air Force officer who led a team of interrogators in Iraq.After the Abu Ghraib scandal, American interrogators adopted a gentler approach, writes the pseudonymous author, using respect, rapport, hope, cunning and deception to obtain information. His slow-moving book profiles a group of special agents and criminal investigators who introduced the new violence-free approach in questioning that ultimately led to the death in 2006 of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq. Assisted by veteran co-author Bruning (House to House, 2007, etc.), the officer conveys a vivid sense of the intense pressures facing those interrogators, who had to quickly apply the six weeks of training they received at "the Schoolhouse" (Fort Huachuca in Arizona) to ferret out the master terrorist behind a rash of suicide bombings. Much of the book focuses on the questioning of five well-dressed men, captured at a farmhouse "wedding," who turned out to be senior-level al-Qaeda leaders. Facing trial and imprisonment, each detainee was painstakingly cajoled, flattered and manipulated with favors and promises ("I'll take care of you. I'll try to help you as best I can") into revealing fellow terrorists' locations, which were promptly attacked by Special Forces. The Geneva Conventions were respected, although nothing was done to determine who was present at targeted sites before they were destroyed by bombing. The fact that two young children died along with Zarqawi prompts no more than a verbal shrug from the author: "Innocent people get hurt." A surprising number of the detainees were not religious zealots but simply Iraqis who went along with al-Qaeda to make ends meet; Abu Gamal, an electrician with two wives to support, made hundreds of roadside bombs to earn extra money ($50 per job). The author's gung-ho tone and such melodramatic lines as "we could change history" fail to boost a flat narrative.Fascinating and informative content, poorly delivered. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Matthew Alexander

Matthew Alexander spent fourteen years in the U.S. Air Force and is now part of the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He has personally conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised more than 1,000. Matthews was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievement in Iraq, has two advanced degrees, and speaks three languages. When he's not chasing the world's most wanted, he goes surfing. John Bruning is the author or co-author of eight books including House to House by David Bellavia, Bruining has been a writer and historian for seventeen more
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