AN INTERROGATOR

William Quinn
William Quinn (William Quinn)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008; 8:14 PM

When William Quinn tells people that he was an interrogator for the Army at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, he knows what to expect.

"There's a pretty big stigma. . . . A lot of people say, even now, that, 'Well, of course you tortured people,' " he said. "And we didn't. Even if we wanted to, they wouldn't have let us."

Quinn, 25, now an undergraduate at Georgetown University, was among the military intelligence interrogators sent to Abu Ghraib in February 2005, shortly after the abuse scandal there caused a wholesale reevaluation of the military's interrogation methods. One of the military lawyers showed him and other interrogators the now-infamous list of techniques that top officers approved for the prison -- including the use of military dogs, stress positions and other harsh tactics. "If you ever see a list like this, don't obey it," Quinn recalled being told.

"I don't think there are too many interrogators who would argue we were limited by the rules," Quinn said. "Anything that is a deliberate attempt to use sexual humiliation or acute pain, even through sleeplessness, certainly is unethical and unnecessary. To me, enhanced interrogation techniques that involve anything beyond conversation seem very difficult to justify."

Quinn quickly moved from Abu Ghraib to Camp Cropper, a U.S. detention facility in Baghdad reserved for the highest-priority targets, such as Saddam Hussein. There, he spoke face-to-face with more than 50 top alleged terrorists.

"It was remarkable, but I was able to sit down with them and chat with them over tea and have heartfelt conversations about their families," he said. "While certainly involved in evil acts, they still did seem to have a soul and some ability to have compassion. It's very difficult for me not to see them as human beings, and human beings who are caught up in incredibly difficult circumstances."

-- Josh White


© 2008 The Washington Post Company