EXCLUSIVE: An Interview With An American Torturer

January 23, 2015   |   Justin King

Justin King
January 23, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) “Michael” worked for US corporations protecting corporate interests during the recent unpleasantness in the Middle East, but he wasn’t your average security consultant or military contractor. His specialization was interrogations, and he was good at his job. He has a reputation within the community as one of the private sector’s most efficient interrogators. A mutual friend arranged an introduction and we met to have a few drinks. I hoped he could shed some light on the practices used by America’s army of torturers. Author’s note: The description and transcript of this interview contains profanity, racial slurs, and graphic descriptions of torture. The exact language was included to provide the reader with a glimpse into the mindset of a torturer.

After I introduced myself to Michael and his companion, I sat silently at the table. It might not be as effective as some of the tactics used by the man sitting across the table from me, but remaining silent tends to force the other person to begin talking. People can’t stand silence.

He smiled knowingly and said:

“OK, as you wish. I’ll start. So, I read your last article on torture. You were right on the money in some parts and completely f–king off base in others.”

Everybody’s a critic. “So where was I wrong?”

“Well, you said torture was horrible. That’s true. You said it was morally repugnant. That’s really a matter of opinion. Let’s get one thing straight right out of the f–king gate: if I thought it would save an American life, I’d do things far worse than anything that made it in to that report. I might even stick a power drill through somebody’s knee.”

The expressions on the faces of the two men at the table clued me in to the fact that I had just witnessed an inside joke. Somebody at the table or somebody they knew had done that. I didn’t take the bait. It was obviously a story they were willing to share, so it wasn’t one I was particularly interested in hearing. “So, it’s horrible, but you’re totally OK with it. No bad dreams? No psych issues? You have some pills in your pocket to take the edge off?”

He laughed.

“No. My conscience is pretty clear. Look, you said it: war is horrible. If you want to stop horrible things from happening you’re going to have everybody believing the same thing and never having any difference of ideas. Sounds pretty f–king boring to me. War is horrible; you have to accept that.”

I ordered my drink and asked, “So, why are we talking today?” Everybody that agrees to an interview that could put them at risk has an agenda. I had no idea what his was. Michael was a private citizen when he was over in sandland; he isn’t covered by the blanket immunity given to government employees. This interview was a huge risk for him.

“You have to accept that war is horrible. What you don’t have to accept is making it worse than it needs to be. I know you’re one of those guys that believes in open borders and peace and love.” He sarcastically flashed me a peace sign. “I’m not. I’m a patriot. I love my country, and there is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect her. But protecting her involves the correct use of horrible actions. Rectal rehydration? I mean, what the f–k is that? I don’t even want to know who came up with that sh-t.”

“So, you’re against torture? Is that what I’m hearing?”

“Not the way you guys define it. Torture, as you guys are defining it, isn’t all torture. Keeping some dune goon awake for a week and throwing pigs blood on him is mean, it’s horrible, f-ck call it evil if you want, but don’t call it torture. Torture is what those sick f-ckers from Williamsburg were doing.” [Williamsburg is a reference to a Central Intelligence Agency training facility]

“So where the hell’s the line?” I asked.

“The line is when the violence doesn’t work or when what you’re doing causes harm.”

He downed his drink and slammed it on the table as if he had clearly made his point. He might have been waiting a little longer than I thought. Maybe he was already getting drunk.

“Well doesn’t all violence cause harm? I mean, that’s kind of the point, right?”

“Not harm to them, a–hole. Harm to our boys. Let’s say your family and my family are at war. I run your kid over with a car and kill him. What are you going to do if you find my kid wandering in the f–king grocery store? If you take this sh-t too far, you end up putting your own people in danger because word gets out. So it isn’t necessarily wrong to give a guy a forced enema because it’s evil, it’s wrong because it will get our own people tortured and killed.”

“Have you tortured people?”

“Yes. I’ve put people on the hooks [suspending a person in a “stress position.”], waterboarding, sleep deprivation, good old fashioned beating, threatening to have their families killed, telling them their families were dead, pig’s blood, all kinds of sh-t like that. If that’s torture, then yeah, I’ve done it.”

He was very matter of fact and unapologetic.

“So did you ever bring a family member in and torture them?” I was a little afraid of the answer.

“No, didn’t have resources to waste like that. Private companies don’t have an endless supply of US tax dollars.”

“If you had the money, would you have done it?” I asked.

“Probably not. Not because it’s horrible, but because it would convince a religious nut that we’re f–king evil, and that might make him even tougher to break.”

“What was the most effective ‘enhanced interrogation technique?'”

“Sleep deprivation. You keep a guy awake long enough and he’ll tell you anything.”

“So how often did you use the more aggressive methods?” I asked.

“Like waterboarding, beating, sh-t like that? Almost never. It doesn’t normally work.”

He waved away the question with his drink.

“The CIA says it works.” I prodded.

“Well the CIA also said we’d be out of Vietnam by June of ’66, and that there was an ongoing NBC [Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical] program in Iraq. For f-cks sake, you have to consider the source. Congress and the public opinion, thanks to a–holes like you, have them by their short and curlies. They’ve got to say it worked. They can’t just come out and say ‘we tried something, got carried away, and it didn’t work.’ That might impact their budget. The government is putting HUMINT [Human Intelligence: person to person spying] on the back burner as it is. They’re relying mostly on eavesdropping measures. The CIA needs every penny they can get.”

“So you’re saying the CIA’s program was ineffective?” I was a little surprised by the relative honesty of his statement.

He laughed loud enough to draw the attention of everyone in the bar.

“That’s the f–king understatement of the year. Look, real intelligence gathering is about getting information. You have to have some information in order to know what the f-ck to ask the a–hole to begin with. These idiots were interrogating their own people. That tells me that they didn’t know a damned thing about the people they were stringing up. That tells me that they couldn’t have gained any valuable intelligence because they didn’t know what the hell to ask in the first place. If you’re going to do something ‘horrible’ you had better be f–king right. Otherwise, you’re just wasting resources and endangering the lives of your men.”

I nodded.

“Look kid, can you name one government program that is more effective than the private sector? Just one. Intelligence work is no different. They aren’t even recruiting the right guys anymore. They used to recruit Ivy League guys for embassy duty, and hell-raisers for field work. That’s the way it should be. Now they’re recruiting people because they have a degree in the right subject and that haven’t really ever been in trouble. The whole job is breaking the law. Recruiting some frat boy that’s never actually done anything that wasn’t handed to him attracts the wrong kind of a–hole.”

“And you’re the right kind of a–shole?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m the right kind of a–hole. I never tortured the wrong guy. I never a–raped a f–king retard. Just because these idiots screwed up, doesn’t mean you toss the whole program. Wouldn’t you want somebody to go the extra mile if it was your life on the line?”

He was waiting for an answer. I didn’t want this to turn into a debate, but felt the need to answer in order to keep the conversation moving. “I would suggest that if in the process of defending a normal society, we turn into barbarians, then there’s no reason to even fight and just let the barbarians through the gate. If barbarism is the way of the future no matter what, why not save the trouble of fighting?”

“Stick that defeatist sh-t right up your a–. Yeah, these guys went too far, but where is the line? Where do you say ‘we aren’t doing anything beyond this point?'”

He stuck his finger on the table for punctuation.

“That’s what I’m asking you. You’re the expert, right? What do you think should be the line in the sand?”

He paused and looked into his drink as if he would find the answer there.

“Sleep deprivation. If you can’t break the guy with sleep deprivation, physical violence will only steel his resolve to resist. If I was writing the guidelines, that’s where it would end. Allow a little leeway for slapping the f–ker around a bit, if necessary.”

“So waterboarding is out of the question?” I asked.


He pursed his lips and nodded.

“Rectal rehydration?”

“Get the f-ck out of here with that sh-t. No real intelligence professional did that sh-t. It happened, but that was done by people that would do anything if they were told to.”

“Do you think those people would torture US citizens if ordered?”

“Of course, they would.”

He said this without pause or thought. “How can you defend the idea of torture when it will eventually be used against your own people? You’re a patriot, right?” I asked.

“Hey, f-ck you. When that happens, I’ll be right beside you. Probably in front of you.”

“What would you want to tell the public about the torture program?” I asked.

“Just because the CIA doesn’t know their a– from a hole in the ground, doesn’t mean that we’re all f–king Nazis. Can you believe some d-ckhead actually said that? [He was talking about me] Roughing up a guy might be necessary in certain situations. I’m not defending what the company [CIA] did. I’m just saying that we need all the tools we can get. These guys are tough. We have to be prepared to get our hands dirty. No we shouldn’t be buttf–king Rainman with a tube, but slapping a guy around might be necessary. And for f–k’s sake, leave sleep deprivation out of the debate. We need that sh-t. It works. There’s no permanent damage.”

He seemed to genuinely believe that sleep deprivation was necessary.

“Tell the readers what sleep deprivation is.” I asked for clarification.

“You take some hadji that you know based on other intelligence is a bad guy. You snatch him up and you keep him awake. You never let him get a moment’s rest. He doesn’t have a window so how long he’s been there is a complete mystery. You keep him awake however you have to. Loud music, water or blood poured on him, slaps to the face, whatever. After a couple of days he doesn’t have the will to continue resisting normal interrogation methods.”

“Is there anything else you want to say?” I asked.

“No, I think I’m good. So are you going to twist this into some story about how horrible I am?”

He asked laughing, and I could tell he wouldn’t care if I did. He was a true believer. True believers are the most dangerous people on the planet. If God and country are on your side, there’s nothing that’s out of line.

“I’ll print every word you said.” I said and the conversation ended.

Michael didn’t seem evil. That’s the scariest part. He believes that the horrible things he’s done and will do are in the best interests of his nation, and that the supremacy of his nation is the most important thing on Earth. It’s a trait that most of America believes is a good thing. How could you not believe that? Ever since you were 5 years old you pledged allegiance to the flag and were taught about the righteousness of the American cause.

In that way, there isn’t much difference between the two men in the torture chambers. Both the man in control and the man in shackles are convinced that the ends justify the means. It doesn’t matter if you’re torturing a prisoner or piloting a plane into a building, if you set aside your decency for a colored piece of cloth hanging in a classroom corner or a book written before you were born in the middle of the desert, you’ve allowed indoctrination to cloud your better judgement.
The reader has a clear view of those in favor of the torture program. It’s up to them to decide if they agree or not.

Author’s note: “Michael” is an alias. Due to the nature of the conversation, the source insisted upon completely anonymity.

Join the Global Day of Action Against Torture on January 31, 2015. Click here to find an event near you.

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Author: Justin King

Justin King joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in July of 2014. His topics of interest include activism, human rights, international relations, and military affairs. Born in Japan, he currently resides in the United States.

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