In the wake of Senator Feinstein’s revelation of torture abuse by CIA contractors under the leadership of executives in the Bush Administration, it may be enlightening to reflect on a time and place where we interrogated successfully.
As you drive south down the GW Parkway in Northern Virginia to George Washington’s Mt. Vernon Estate, you’ll drive by Fort Hunt. This National Park was called Project – P.O. Box 1142. It served as a top secret military intelligence center to gain intelligence from high profile Nazi prisoners. This camp included the prisoners from U Boat 234 which carried German secrets originally destined for Japan including their research to develop an atomic bomb, a jet engine, and V2 rocket plans; and Reinhard Gehlen, another prisoner who ran the German intelligence operations in the Soviet Union.
Our military needed interrogators who spoke German but many German Americans were suspect at the time over their loyalty to the U.S. versus their country of origin. So, in many cases, they chose German/Jewish Americans who had extreme motivation to gain information from these prisoners. Some had lost relatives in the Holocaust.
But, it was a collective decision led by their camp commander, not to mistreat any of the prisoners. Instead, they chose to befriend these men, playing checkers with them, going on long walks through the park with them and getting to know them personally. The result of this approach was astounding. I have been told that this camp yielded such a treasure trove of invaluable information that it may stand as the most effective interrogation experience in our military’s history.
Incidentally, the camp commander was John Kluge, who went on to make billions in media and become one of America’s most generous philanthropists.