by Adrian Flores
“Which flag do you serve?” This was the response of a senior CIA officer when Glenn Carle expressed concern about President George W. Bush’s signing off on the use of torture on terror suspects in 2002. Carle showed his concern by asking the officer, “But what about the Geneva Convention?”
At the time, Mr Carle, a member of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations for 23 years, asked the question, “But what about the Geneva Convention?” He has written about his experiences during those years in The Interrogator: A CIA Agent’s True Story.
He spoke to writer and journalist Elisabeth Wynhausen during the Sydney Writers’ Festival about his motivations for writing the book.
A fourth generation Bostonian, he said he wanted to find something that challenged him physically, morally and intellectually. And so he considered entering the intelligence services, thinking that “being a spy must be really wild”.
Unsure about how to apply to work for the CIA, as a student he went to the Harvard University careers office for advice and was given the number of David Atlee Phillips, a CIA officer who later went on to write the memoir, The Night Watch.
The CIA officer was obviously impressed because Glenn Carle was given his first assignment in 1985.
But it was his experiences interrogating a man, referred to as Captus, who suspected of being Osama bin Laden’s banker and holding critical information about al-Qaeda’s operations in 2002 that formed a major part of the book.
Suspects, referred to in the book as ‘assets’, had an officer-in-charge in the field and an officer-in-charge at headquarters overseeing interrogations. In the field it was Glenn Carle and at headquarters it was a man named Terrell Wilmington (not his real name).
The two were often at odds with each other regarding the handling of Captus; it was Glenn Carle’s concern about the President’s approval of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that led Terrell Wilmington to put the question, “Which flag do you serve?”
Glenn Carle said he sat in a room with Captus and interrogated him for 15 hours a day. However, on being given the briefing on Captus, he doubted its legitimacy within the first week of interrogation.
Carle resisted calls to use ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, essentially torture. Captus was eventually sent to another facility for further questioning. Later revealed as Afghani banker Haji Pacha Wazir, Captus was held in detention for eight years, and in February 2012 was released and sent home to Afghanistan.
In talking about his motivations for writing The Interrogator, Glenn Carle points to the Captus case when criticising the use of torture as a method of gathering intelligence.
“If you’re under intense pain, you would say anything to stop that pain, so automatically the information becomes unreliable. You also lose the trust that’s needed to get reliable information from someone,” he said.Most importantly, Glenn Carle questions the role of the US Government, its legitimacy and its role in upholding the Constitution.
“In writing this book, I hope to put a light on the Government and what it has done to itself, and really question what my country has become through the global war on terror,” he said.