The cover story of this month’s National Interest focuses on different approaches to terrorist interrogation. Matthew Alexander, former senior military interrogator and author of How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq, profiles Colonel Tito Karnavian, the chief of intelligence for Detachment 88, Indonesia’s premier counterterrorist force. Karnavian’s approach to interrogation is strategic, as opposed to the tactical scenarios that dominate the debate in America.
The goal of the interrogators is not intelligence information that can prevent future terrorist attacks, but the conversion of the extremists into advocates against violent jihad. Interrogators have, de facto, become the primary facilitators of rehabilitation. In this manner, Karnavian has turned a tactical weapon into strategic leverage, and the results speak for themselves.
Following the implementation of Karnavian’s interrogation strategy, Indonesia did not have a terrorist bombing for almost the entire three years between 2006 and 2009, no doubt chalked up to the cooperation of numerous imprisoned extremists. Two former senior JI members captured by Detachment 88 have since written books admitting their erroneous violent beliefs. One book was a national best seller in Indonesia. In comparison, U.S. interrogation strategy, although improved since the revelations of torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib in 2005, is in the Stone Age.