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The Interrogators: Task Force 500 and America's Secret War Against Al Qaeda Paperback – May 12, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (May 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316011533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316011532
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

My last military book was Lone Survivor, which I absolutely loved.
Kindle Customer
The back of the book says it reads like a suspense novel, which I take issue with also: it's not boring, but it's not suspenseful either.
David W. Nicholas
Countless serious factual errors make this book almost unreadable.
Enigma Machine

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on June 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is one of those books that is, on its face, deceptive about what it is and what it covers. The cover of the book shows what's apparently the shadow of a special forces operator, wearing a boonie hat and carrying a non-standard assault rifle, walking as part of a patrol. Because of this you might expect some combat in the narrative, some action or something, but there's only one real combat scene in the whole book, the author never fires his weapon, and the narrative of tbe book recounts activities that are only tangentally related to combat. The back of the book says it reads like a suspense novel, which I take issue with also: it's not boring, but it's not suspenseful either. Instead, it turns out to be rather intriguing.

Chris Mackey (a pseudonym) was in the Army reserves for most of the 90s, having joined the army at 17 and learned first German, then Arabic, and been trained as an interrogator. By the time of Operation Enduring Freedom (the campaign in Afghanistan) he was a Sergeant First Class in his unit, and a tax advisor in civilian life, working in London. He's recalled, and the plot takes off as the author and his comrades are transported to Kandahar, where they begin to interrogate various Afghans and Arabs who've been taken into custody, trying to figure out if they should be kept, kicked loose, or sent to Guantanamo for further interrogation.

The heart of the book recounts the author's experiences as primarily an administrator of this interrogation unit while it operated, first in Kandahar, later in Bagram. There's discussion of the tactics used during interrogation (including a list of "approaches" taught by the army's school on the subject) and of the evolution of their tactics and attitudes towards what was allowed during interrogations and what wasn't.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on July 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
In addition to being an interesting read, this book is salutary in that it confirmed that the abuses of Abu Ghraib and the other archpelago of U.S run prisoner facilities, far from being useful to intelligence gathering and bringing more "heat" down on the likes of Al Qaeda terrorists, were damaging both to the long and short-term interests of the U.S. It also restored my faith in the professionalism of the average American soldier and intelligence operative, and confirmed that no right thinking operative would have been caught dead condoning such outlaw tactics.

As the author notes in the introduction:

"It may be impossible to grasp fully how destructive [these] actions were - to the reputation of the intelligence corps, to our country, and to the world hoping for better from those who wear the army's uniform."

Later in the book the author raises additional interesting points that make equal good sense: that the more prisoners hate America, the harder they are to break; and the more the populations where Al Qaeda hides out hate us, the less likely its citizens will be in helping to lead us to suspects. But almost equally as important, the book points out that the converse is also true: When the U.S. proves to be more civil than the terrorists indoctrination has led them to expect, the more quickly that indoctrination and their anti-U.S. worldviews break down. And of course once broken down -- whether through benign or hostile methods -- the more willing they will be to assist us.

This point was dramatically drilled home on page 426, when after being "broken," a prisoner responsible for helping to store and transport Ricin (an essential ingredient for chemical weapons) for possible use against the USA was asked why he decided to talk.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kill Osama on December 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
The book does a very good job explaining what it is Army interrogators do and how they operated in Afghanistan. The term "intelligence" is thrown around a lot these days and it is very interesting to read about how this information is actually gathered from enemy combatants. If you are interested in reading about modern intel-gathering techniques applied in the war on terror, I would definitely recommend this book.

However, I only give it three stars because of its horribly biased point of view. The book chronicles the experience of one of the co-authors/Army interrogators, Chris Mackey. Throughout the book he takes shots at every other relevant organization involved in the War on Terror including Army Special Ops, the FBI, Marines and MPs, and the CIA (referred to in the book as OGA: Other Government Organization). You can tell that he sees US Army interrogators as the end-all, be-all of the intelligence gathering community in Afghanistan. He is especially critical of the CIA, although he admittedly had no concept of their facilities, operations, or abilities in Afghanistan during his time there. There are a couple instances described in his book where he and his MI colleagues intentionally get in the way of the CIA agents' work, which I found incredibly disconcerting, because it was that sort of thing that allowed 9/11 to go down to begin with!

If you can get past Mackey's ego and general disdain for anyone that doesn't wear an MI patch on their arm, then it is a pretty good read. It is definitely not a balanced or all-encompassing account though, so I would supplement your reading with a couple other selections. Ghost Wars by Steve Coll and First In by Gary Schroen are both excellent selections. Between these three books, any questions you had about the war in Afghanistan should be answered in more than enough detail.
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The Interrogators: Task Force 500 and America's Secret War Against Al Qaeda
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