Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein – John Nixon (Blue Rider Press)
The United States, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was founded in 1947; since that time they have had a history dotted with major failures and misses. Things ranging from the Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 attacks are some of the highest profile fails.
So I guess I was wasn’t too surprised when reading former CIA analyst John Nixon’s account of his time questioning captured Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein, that the CIA comes off like the Keystone Cops. Nixon details the internal squabbles, the ill-prepared nature of their questioning of Hussein and what amounts to an utter failure to gain much in the way of valuable insights from the tyrant.
Nixon spends much of his time point fingers at CIA director George Tenet, the George W. Bush administration and his take on ranging from the intel leading up to the war in Iraq, his belief the waterboarding and other stress based interrogation techniques don’t produce results and the high cost of the war. This from a so-called “Saddam expert” who was an analyst, not a field officer partaking in enhanced interrogations, who apparently didn’t have a prepared list of questions at the ready in the event of a Saddam capture.
An example of how unprepared Nixon and his cohorts where to interrogate Saddam was showcased when Nixon recounts how he was introduced by his boss (“Mr. Jack”) in Iraq as “Mr. Steve” but then during a later session Hussein spotted Nixon’s Coalition ID badge hanging around his neck and demanded “who are you?!” An amateur mistake at best.
Liberals will gravitate towards this book because in reinforces their beliefs about the wasted cost of the war and the George W Bush administration. Any clear headed examination however reveals this to be a jumbled mess of crossed timelines, ill-prepared career employees and a real indictment of how the Congress and it’s often ax grinding oversight has truly hamstrung and crippled the U.S. intelligence services since the mid-1970s when the so-called Church Committee, led by Senator Frank Church (D-ID) clamped down on the tools available to the CIA to actually do their job.