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The Interrogators: Inside the Secret War Against al Qaeda Hardcover – July 19, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This fascinating memoir reports from one of the most crucial and controversial fronts in the war on terror. The pseudonymous Mackey was an interrogator at military prisons in Afghanistan, tasked with sussing out the secrets of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda members. He and journalist Miller take readers inside the prison cells and interrogation rooms, where interrogators choreograph elaborate mind games and fight epic battles of will with their often formidable captives. Their account's full of the engrossing lore and procedure of interrogation, the thrust and parry of baited queries and cagey half-truths, and the occasional dramatic breakthrough when a prisoner cracks. But it also reveals the squalor and drudgery of the prison camps, the exhaustion, bad temper and frequent ineptitude of the interrogators and the many lapses in the American intelligence effort, especially by the CIA, which Mackey regards as an arrogant, secretive and incompetent organization. Mackey deplores the Abu Ghraib abuses and insists that his unit never violated the Geneva Conventions. They flirted, he acknowledges, with stress positions and sleep deprivation, but this was nothing, he claims, beyond what army recruits and the interrogators themselves routinely endured; their main weapons seem to have been veiled threats to return Arab prisoners to their homelands, where they would face real torture. The book, which was vetted by the Pentagon, will not settle the questions surrounding American treatment of prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere. But it does give a vivid, gritty look at the pressures and compromises attendant on this unconventional war.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Chris Mackey joined the army at seventeen and was assigned to the intelligence corps as an interrogator. After 9/11, he was recalled to the United States, assigned to Task Force 500, and subsequently sent to Kandahar, Afghanistan. He ultimately supervised all military interrogations conducted at the theatre-wide detention facility at Bagram airfield.

Greg Miller is a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Edition edition (July 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316871125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316871129
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,386,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. Kelly on February 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"The Interrogators" recounts author Chris Mackey's time spent as an interrogator at a U.S. Army prison facility in Afghanistan in the days right after 9/11. His job was to interview captured Arabs and try to determine which ones could give valuable intelligence information. What was really interesting to me, though, was the author's descriptions of the war in Afghanistan and the methods used to interrogate the prisoners. The beginning of the book describes the training that Mackey received in the Army's language school, and also touched on some of his training in interrogation methods.

While other Amazon reviewers have commented negatively on this book for its lack of military detail, I enjoyed this book for the fact it isn't full of military acronyms and jargon like several other books I've read written on the war on terror. To me, this book almost read like a fictional spy thriller. I can recommend this book to other concerned citizens who are interested in learning more about how the US gathered intelligence on the war on terror. I'm glad that I read it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an Army Military Intelligence officer, interrogator, and Iraq War veteran, THE INTERROGATORS is a must-read for anyone wanting to know what it was like literally facing terrorists and then breaking them down mentally to reveal their own secrets in an effort to save lives. Chris Mackey's detailed firsthand account of interrogations of Taliban fighters and Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom is riveting. He sheds light on the shadowy world of Human Intelligence collection, formerly known as interrogation, and doesn't hesitate to go into detail of how interrogations are done, and how prisoners are broken to cooperate without even being touched, much less tortured. As one who knows firsthand how sensitive the tactics, techniques and procedures of interrogation are, I found it very surprising that the Pentagon approved so much of what is written in this book.

Mackey's scathing rebuke of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq only highlights the morality of his position against using torture. Mackey explains why torture is counterproductive, and would not have been ordered by interrogators in Iraq, as has been revealed in recent Army investigations. Mackey brings the reader into the interrogation "booth" to face the terrorists, and shows how his small and overworked band of intelligence professionals spend countless hours attempting to twist their emotions inside and out, even to the brink of insanity and exhaustion, to get them to talk. Mackey deserves the gratitude of every freedom-loving person for his selfless sacrifice to face these monsters and make the world a little safer for the rest of us.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a story about a critical team of soldiers faced with a nearly impossible task--trying to extract critical intelligence vital to the US' war on terror. It should be a must read for every critic from journalists to university campuses so there's a more accurate and sobering look at what went on vs. the misrepresentation slung around by everyone from John Kerry and Barack Obama to the NY Times.
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Format: Hardcover
"Chris Mackey" is the pseudonym of a senior US Army Intelligence interrogator during the first year of the war in Afghanistan, He relates in great detail his own experiences in confronting captured Afghans and Arabs and trying to discover their true stories, innocent farmers and hardened terrorists alike. Mackey's own intelligence and strong moral sense stand out in his tale, asking hard questions of himself, his comrades, and his country. When we are faced with the certainty that some small number of American soldiers mistreated prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is important to realize, as Mackey shows, that this was not the standard that most of the interrogators operated by.

Chris Mackey provides us with an intimate day-to-day portrait of what went on in this particular battlefield of the war against terrorism, a battlefield that sometimes yielded small victories because of the skill and dedication of these soldiers enduring long hours and difficult conditions. And he gives us a picture of how men and women react to those conditions, some growing, some eroding. Most importantly, Mackey shines a light on to difficult questions of morality, not giving absolute answers, but forcing us to think about them in a new light. Anyone who wishes to understand the challenges facing us in this shadow world should read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Chris MacKey and his editor Ed Wilcox have produced a fine work documenting the sacrifices of US soldiers whose arcane specialty has been much-maligned by the Abu Graib outrage. While they aren't Delta or the SEALS, MacKey's unit supported operators in numerous high-level operations that you won't read about elsewhere. I'm not sure who reviewed this at the Pentagon but I think they should have taken a closer look...

MacKey, a reserve soldier working happily in London, gets tagged to participate in a bare-bones prison camp operation in Kandahar and Bagram in the first months of the US campaign in Afghanistan. He struggles with Cold War interrogation philosophies, incompetent peers, subordinates with the sharp insight of youth - and not a lot of wisdom and self control, and the everpresent (and apparently completely incompetent) OGA (really another three letter Government Agency, but maybe it will fool you - it obviosuly didn't fool MacKey!)

One of my primary conclusions from this book is that our human intelligence efforts are in a world of hurt if the OGA is even half as incompetent as MacKey makes them out to be. Another is that the Army, in all its wisdom, still hasn't even come close to figuring out how to manage a war that must be executed in cultures that are completely foriegn to our own.

To the detractors on Amazon, you won't find a better description of military life in the field. It may not read like Marcinko, because it is real life, with malcontents, warped genius, and long, boring, and exhausting labor punctuated by the Big Green Machine's lunacy (thanks to the 101st Airborne - which apparently deployed its troops with no ammunition during a nightime assault on MacKey's fire base - duhhh!
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