Singapore, March 4 (Reuters): The operations chief of al Qaida may be pummelled with sound, deprived of sleep and seduced with words to give up secrets of planned operations. Inspired by Islamic heroes of history, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed may stay silent for a long time.
The most senior leader of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network to fall into US hands has many examples to remember while his interrogators race to prise from the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington his latest plots.
Legend has it that during the time of the Prophet Mohammed, a black slave, Bilal, famed for his melodious voice, was dragged over hot sand and burning coals by infidels to force him to give up his association with the Prophet. He refused. “He will be very professional,” US-based terror expert Zachary Abuza, assistant professor of political science and international relations at Simmons College in Boston, said of Mohammed.
“He will obfuscate and mislead and try not to talk,” he said. “They will break him down because in the US there is a very strong sense of urgency.”
That sense of urgency will be multiplied by the knowledge that with every passing moment, Mohammed’s information becomes outdated as his operatives move from locations he knows, plans are scrapped or brought forward.
And there is the fear of retaliatory attacks in revenge for the arrest of Mohammed before dawn on Saturday. Kalashnikov-toting Pakistani security agents seized him from a house in a middle-class district of the teeming central Pakistani city of Rawalpindi. “He had his finger on the pulse of every al Qaida cell,” said Abuza. “In terms of fighting the war on terror there is no one more important.”
Intelligence experts say “soft torture” is almost certainly being brought to bear.
In the case of Omar al-Faruq, a leading al Qaida operative captured in Indonesia in June and handed over to the US, interrogators deprived him of sleep for three months before he broke, said one intelligence expert. Methods to deprive a suspect of sleep include leaving the lights on all the time and constant noise.
Interrogators try to develop a dialogue with the captive using “good cop, bad cop” techniques in which one interrogator appears friendly as if protecting the prisoner from another more menacing one.