Pros: Great book on new school interrogation without torture or waterboarding
This is a book about the team of interrogators who uncovered the information that enabled us to find and kill Zarqawi. It's written by one of the interrogators (Matthew Arnold is a pseudonym) in a readble style that feels more like a mystery novel or thriller than a textbook.
The book is built around a series of interviews of various people suspected of being involved with terrorism, primarily people picked up by a special forces team. The author has investigation experience, but not with terrorists before now. He is chosen to lead a team of hardened old school investigators. After Abu Gharib the military realized that new methods would be needed, and Matthew Arnold has to teach old interrogators new tricks they won't like. The easiest way to get someone to talk to you is be nice to them - and even if they think they're fooling you, they may give away more than they realize.
The new technique is nonviolent, and much less dependent on threats and intimidation than the old one. What it isn't is soft - in its own way it can be more savage and ruthless than the old one. Interrogators are taught not to make promises they can't keep because this may burn a bridge permanently - yet deceit is an integral part of the technique, and sometimes promises seem to be filled but aren't. If the 'gator knows what the prisoner wants and can't provide it, they become someone who can in the target's mind. The only physical threat used is real and didn't stem from the interrogators - most of the targets were just being given a chance to be helpful and hope for leniency before they went to trial.
Between interrogations we learn about the lives, interactions, and conflicts of the team. Some of the jokes are light and fun. They call themselves 'gators, and meet in the 'gator pit. Everyone knows not to mess with Randy, and someone sums up this knowledge by writing messages about him - and is never seen. 'Jesus can walk on water, but Randy can swim through land.' 'Kids wear Superman pajamas. Superman wears Randy pajamas.' 'The bogie man looks for Randy under his bed.'
But the stakes are high. There is conflict between interrogators, and some of the older members of the team reject the new methods. Someone from above is micromanaging the team as well.
This is more than a book about the hunt for Zarqawi. Without breaking the narrative, we learn a great deal about methods of interrogation old and new. Life is not an episode of 24, and more often than not, the one with information about a 'ticking time bomb' is already prepared to resist torture. Matthew defuses a real ticking time bomb - orders to give up on someone who has vital information and send them to trial.