David Iglesias on Guantanamo Bay Report Revealing That CIA Official Impersonated a Pentecostal Preacher to Interrogate Suspected Terrorists

In this June 27, 2006 file photo, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, U.S. military guards walk within Camp Delta military-run prison, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

David C. Iglesias is an associate professor of politics and law at Wheaton College and is the director of the Wheaton Center for Faith, Politics and Economics. He retired as a captain in the US Navy JAG Corps and served as the US attorney for the District of New Mexico in the George W. Bush administration. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of BCNN1.


Why would a CIA official interrogating a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist impersonate a Pentecostal preacher “laying on hands”? I was perplexed to read a recent Guardian article alleging a Guantanamo Bay interrogator would “put one hand on the forehead of a detainee, raise the other high in the air, and in a deep Southern drawl say things like, ‘Can you feel it, son? Can you feel the Spirit moving down my arm, into your body?’”

I served as US attorney from 2001 to 2006. I served as a US Navy JAG officer and prosecution team leader between 2008 and 2014 at the Office of the Chief Prosecutor, US Military Commissions. I have been to Guantanamo Bay many times, including the detention camps. I have sat face to face with a suspected al-Qaeda member and his attorney. I am also an evangelical Christian and the son of a Southern Baptist minister. I can tell you, this isn’t how you interrogate a suspected terrorist.

Typically, after a crime occurs, an investigator questions the suspect. A skilled interrogator will obtain a confession to a crime. There are many rules regarding permissible types of interrogation, but the most important thing is that the interrogator wants a truthful and voluntary statement that can be used in court.

Prosecutors are ethically bound to introduce only untainted evidence before the court. Trial judges, using the well-established doctrine called “the exclusionary rule,” will bar statements and evidence not provided voluntarily.

I don’t think imitating a revivalist preacher about to “slay someone in the Spirit” would taint evidence. It’s not inhumane. But it is bizarre, and it shows the level of desperation the interrogators must have felt in getting actionable intelligence. That desperation has led to dark places in the recent past.

In 2002, the George W. Bush administration’s Justice Department released a legal memorandum that cleared the way for abusive interrogation techniques—called “enhanced interrogation techniques” or EIT. The memo authorized sleep deprivation, stress positions, slapping a detainee across the face, and waterboarding, which simulates the experience of drowning.

When I learned about the EIT memo, I knew federal courts would not accept evidence obtained through these techniques. I also knew there was tremendous pressure put on law enforcement officials to get convictions of terrorism suspects. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 made America scared and desperate. We were all concerned about another attack and felt duty bound to stop it. I remember James Comey, then deputy attorney general, telling all the US Attorneys to “shake the trees” and stop the next attack.

The Justice Department had actually prosecuted Texas Sheriff James Parker in 1983 for waterboarding criminal suspects. But in the topsy-turvy, Alice in Wonderland world of Guantanamo, contractors had Justice Department clearance to use abusive interrogation techniques. The shining city on the hill lost its light when it came to the treatment of some alleged war-crimes suspects in the years after 9/11.

An experienced federal criminal investigator will tell you they have many authorized techniques when they question suspects. The most effective is what the FBI calls rapport-based interrogation, which means the agent seeks to establish a relationship with the suspect and treats them humanely as required by federal law. That leads to true and voluntary confessions.

My good friend and former FBI agent Ali Soufan interrogated many al-Qaeda suspects and was successful in getting actionable intelligence from them. He treated them all decently and was rewarded with information that could be used in court. Soufan and other federal agents had experience in interrogating suspected terrorists. The CIA contractors shockingly did not have any experience with suspected terrorists or even criminals. Such was the state of our desperation in the immediate years after 9/11. We believed in flimflam artists. So maybe it’s not surprising to hear allegations that one of the interrogators was a fake revivalist too.

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Source: Christianity Today