National Security Program | Report

What Zero Dark Thirty Won’t Tell You About Effective Interrogation

by Mieke Eoyang and Steven Kleinman

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Going to see Zero Dark Thirty ?

If so, remember, the question is not whether harsh interrogation techniques ever lead to actionable intelligence, but whether doing so is necessary and appropriate. We believe there are two reasons why the answer is no.

  • First, harsh interrogation techniques are wrong. Torture is against the ideals we stand for as Americans, and our belief in human dignity. This is why President Obama, with the support of his counterterrorism advisors, has banned the use of such techniques.
  • Second, there are more effective ways to gain intelligence than by using torture. The use of force undermines the interrogators’ ultimate goal—to elicit useful intelligence—for which you need the co-operation of the subject, not merely compliance.

But don’t take our word for it. In this report, we asked veteran military interrogator Steven Kleinman to explain the difference between effective interrogations in the real world and those portrayed in Hollywood. Kleinman has over 26 years of operational experience. He is a highly decorated veteran of Operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, and Iraqi Freedom. He has years of experience handling high-value detainees and has testified on interrogation and detainee policy before Congress.

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