Torture, TV and US Interrogation Policy: What Works, What Doesn't Work and How It Is Shown on TV


Two interrogators who are responsible for capturing Saddam Hussein and finding Al Zarqawi the chief of Al Qaeda in Iraq will speak about their experiences in the field at UCLA. The interrogators will be joined by David Danzig, a Director at Human Rights First.


Friday, April 24, 2009
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
1422 Melnitz Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Eric Maddox, a former U.S. Army interrogator, interrogated hundreds of Iraqis in Tikrit, Iraq and developed the intelligence that led U.S. forces to Saddam Hussein. Maddox wrote a book about his experiences chasing Saddam called, Mission: Blacklist #1. Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym), a former U.S. Air Force interrogator, developed the intelligence that led U.S. forces to Al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and the mastermind behind a campaign of beheadings and suicide bombings in Iraq. Alexander recently released a book about his experiences in Iraq entitled, How to Break a Terrorist.

Maddox and Alexander will share their “war stories” that show how they were able to “break” uncooperative detainees using sophisticated approaches to developing intelligence. They have strong views about what works and what doesn’t work in the interrogation booth and an interesting first hand perspective on the war in Iraq and our struggle against Islamic extremism.

Maddox and Alexander will be in Los Angeles with Human Rights First, an international human rights organization that has worked to amplify the voices of military leaders who do not believe that it is in the best interests of the United States to engage in torture.

Human Rights First seeks to change the dynamics of the torture debate in the United States and abroad by changing the way Hollywood portrays torture on TV. Since 9/11 there has been a dramatic increase in the number of TV programs that show torture and suggest that it is a morally acceptable and effective tool to counter terrorism. Programs like 24 - seen by a viewing audience of more than 12 million in the US and beamed to dozens of other countries - have influenced the actions of US soldiers in the field and are often cited by public figures in justifying the need for abusive interrogations in certain "extreme" situations.

Human Rights First seeks to change the way interrogation is shown on TV by encouraging the writers, producers and editors of programs like 24 to show scenes where torture does not "work." Senior interrogators, like Maddox and Alexander, are near unanimous in their belief that torture is not an effective way to obtain information from suspected terrorists. They have "war stories" that demonstrate what can go wrong when abuse is used and stories which demonstrate how a smart interrogator can get a bad guy to talk without using brutality.


Cost : Free and open to the public.

Sponsor(s): Burkle Center for International Relations, Human Rights First, and the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television