Confessions of a Torturer

In the Chicago Reader:

After basic training he [Tony Lagouranis]was sent to Fort Huachuca in Arizona for interrogation school, where the curriculum was largely based on conventional warfare. Lagouranis learned a great deal, for instance, about Soviet weapons systems. “We did like one day on approaches, the method you use to break down the prisoner, to break his psychological defenses. They told us in training that 90 percent of prisoners will break on the direct approach, which is simply asking a direct question—you don’t have to run an approach. They said if a prisoner doesn’t break you usually have enough detainees that you can just ignore that person and talk to someone else.”

Lagouranis believes this thinking was based on the experience of the gulf war, when captured Iraqi prisoners were often willing to cooperate. “Their questions were totally different than what we would ask in Iraq. They were asking like, ‘How many T72 tanks does this unit have? Where are you getting spare parts? How well are your trucks maintained?’—things that we would never ask to break an insurgency.”

Lagouranis also studied the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners. “We were told, ‘You can’t use any coercive tactics. There can be no negative repercussions for a prisoner who isn’t cooperating with you.’”

After interrogator’s school, Lagouranis spent 15 months learning Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, California. In the summer of 2003, about four months after the invasion of Iraq, he was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia, where he joined the 513th Military Intelligence Brigade, which contained soldiers who’d already served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He got more training there, this time with more realistic scenarios, and he also began hearing stories from the veterans of more abusive approaches—though he figured some were boastful exaggeration.

“They were talking about using sexual humiliation on these guys, or certain stress positions they had used, or in Afghanistan they would make the guy sit in the snow naked for long periods of time. They said that the detainees that they had were not covered by the Geneva Conventions, which I continued to hear in Iraq too.”

(Via the Daily Dish.)