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How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq Hardcover – Bargain Price, December 2, 2008

ISBN-10: 1416573151 Edition: 1st

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, December 2, 2008
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (December 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416573151
  • ASIN: B002PJ4IQG
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,152,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Alexander, a pseudonymous air force officer, and writer Bruning (House to House), collaborate to tell the stranger-than-fiction story of the intelligence operation that located and ultimately killed Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq. An Air Force investigator turned interrogator, Alexander was trained in the post–Abu Ghraib interrogation techniques that replace fear and control with respect, rapport, hope, cunning and deception. He arrived in Iraq in March 2006, a month after al-Qaeda bombed the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra in an effort to incite sectarian violence, and Zarqawi became the most wanted man in Iraq and the primary focus of U.S. intelligence efforts. Using the new methods, Alexander interrogated five captured al-Qaeda members and tracked down Zarqawi's personal spiritual adviser, who unwittingly led U.S. Special Forces to Zarqawi's hideout; this vindicated Alexander's methods and eliminated the key terrorist leader. Alexander provides a front-row seat to the intelligence war inside the Global War on Terrorism in a riveting, fast-paced account that reads like a first-rate thriller. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"[T]his is an excellent account of a high-profile victory in the often-hidden intelligence war that is at the heart of the U.S. effort in Iraq.... It is generally agreed that the Global War on Terrorism is first and foremost an intelligence war. Alexander's story offers us an absorbing behind-the=scenes look at the secret intelligence war within a war." -- www.military.com

More About the Author

Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym) has spent over eighteen years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves. He personally conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised more than 1,000. Alexander was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievements in Iraq, including leading the team of interrogators that located Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was subsequently killed in an airstrike. Alexander has conducted missions in over thirty countries, has two advanced degrees, and speaks three languages. He has published Op-Eds in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. His article, Martyrdom, Interrupted, was on the cover of the Mar/Apr 2010 issue of The National Interest. He has appeared over fifty times on television including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, The CBS Evening News, ABC's Nightline, Fox News, and MSNBC News.

Customer Reviews

I finished this book in less than 24 hours.
C. M. Eddy
The author manages to convey his message about the effectiveness of the new, psychological interrogation methods without sounding preachy.
Wyndam I. Makowsky
The book is well written and is very easy to read.
Charles B Patterson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Wyndam I. Makowsky on December 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've read a number of books on the Iraq War, from soldiers' memoirs to journalists' observations. "How to Break a Terrorist" stands alone from that group, as it gives an inside look into specific tactics on the most personal level.

I can see why the book ruffled some feathers--it is a complete rejection of the ways of old, and the new methods expressed in it could certainly raise some eyebrows. Creating relationships and developing mutual respect seems counter intuitive when dealing with mass murders. Why show respect to people who would just as easily blow you up as they would sit in a room with you? And indeed, the author's inner turmoil over this point, combined with his persistent dedication to the cause (nailing Al Zarqawi) and trust in new methods of interrogation, is one of the more compelling subplots of the book.

The characters we meet are fascinating. I won't talk too much about that, because you should read about them yourself, but the men he interrogates are all distinctly different, and the methods he uses change based on the subject, from the street peddlers up to the final link to Al Zarqawi, whose breaking requires the most creative interrogation tactic of all.

To make it even more interesting, the new methods aren't even entirely accepted by the other members of the interrogation team, who prefer control tactics instead--the office politics--set in a warzone--remind us that old ways die hard. Also, as someone who only has a view of the military from the outside, I was surprised to read about the structure of the interrogation unit. Matthew is a major, but his rank doesn't matter--one of the funnier exchanges comes within the books first few pages, when an NCO asks him if he'll have a "hard f***ing time" with a sergeant giving him orders.
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60 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Some people don't see eye to eye with the Bush Administration. Some do. That's okay. We're still America. We can disagree amicably.

The author presents a story involving how psychology was used to obtain better data more rapidly than through the use of brutality. I see that as a positive thing.

People die in war. Many times the innocent suffer far out of proportion to the gulty. There is no way to eliminate "collateral damage" as long as there are wars.

And there is no way for free peoples to avoid war without just surrendering to anyone who demands it.

I liked the stories in the book. No, I'm not offering any spoilers here; but I was fascinated by the ways the captured terrorists were manipulated into willingly revealing data that they might never have given up under torture.

We all hate war; but this book shows that we can win and still be the good guys...
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful By David S. Singer on December 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It's non-fiction that reads with taut suspense...a hard dose of truth. A game within a game with the highest of stakes: American lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and literally could not put it down.

If you enjoy reading mystery, intrigue, military warfare, special ops, good vs evil, covert ops, psychological ops, and good old fashioned tactics, you will love this book and keep it displayed on your bookshelf long after you've read it.

An awesome read.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Sloan on December 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a person who feels very disappointed in our government's torture policies, I was intrigued by this book. Once I started it, I could not put it down. It reads like finely crafted fiction, even though it's purely factual.

As the interrogations unfold, you get to feel the full range of emotions experienced by the terrorist, and then see how they are used by a new breed of interrogator. These interrogators use their brains, rather than force, to 'break' one terrorist after another, leading them to the most wanted man in Iraq.

The book has left me with a better sense of how complex the situation is in Iraq, and also a deeper understanding of what it means to be human...and why some people do inhuman things. In the face of these inhuman things, I deeply admire the courage of the author to maintain his moral compass and lead change.

This book should be read because it's one hell of an exciting story, it's beautifully written, and it conveys a hopeful message!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By DWD's Reviews VINE VOICE on May 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating must-read for anyone who is interested in the war on terror. I was handed this book by a friend and I assumed it was going to be a typical anti-war screed that demands that terrorists be "understood" and coddled. There is also little fear of coddling with Alexander. He is repulsed and haunted by the senseless butchery that went on in Iraq and was sickened by those that were willing to kill innocents with suicide bombings. Alexander's techniques only prove that his eyes were strictly on the goal - stop Zarqawi.

Alexander's techniques are hardly "touchy-feely" - in a way they are a form of psychological trickery. He fools his interview targets into giving him the information he wants and then expolits their trust. It is also the type of technique that any regular viewer of TV detective shows see every day.

The methods Alexander espouses only make sense to me, a veteran teacher. It is easier to get cooperation from someone that you can create a sense of rapport with, even if it is only temporary.

Anyway, the book reads like a suspense novel. It is a quick and intense read and absolutely riveting and informative.

Well done. Highly recommended.
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