This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 2, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: In the book, "How to Break a Terrorist," a 14-year U.S. force officer — Air Force officer and criminal investigator gives a detailed account of the — of how our troops took down the deadliest man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Our own Oliver North has the inside story.
OLIVER NORTH, HOST, "WAR STORIES" (voice-over): Seven June, 2006, the most wanted man in Iraq is hunted down and killed by a U.S. surgical air strike. The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a huge victory in the war against radical Islam. But it's what led to this success that's the most interesting part of this story.
The terrorist swore allegiance to bin Laden's al Qaeda network and helped expand the terror group's footprint. As the undisputed leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Zarqawi masterminded a suicide bombing campaign that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war.
A new book "How to Break a Terrorist" details the techniques used to bring him down.
In 1989, Zarqawi traveled to Afghanistan to join the Mujahideen fight against the Soviet invasion. There he met and befriended the man he came to emulate: Usama bin Laden.
By 1992, Zarqawi was in a Jordanian prison, convicted of conspiring to overthrow his homeland's monarchy. After his release in 1999, Zarqawi was involved in an attempt to kill American and Israeli tourists by blowing up the Radisson Hotel in Amman.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Zarqawi returned to Afghanistan, this time to aid the Taliban and al Qaeda against the U.S. coalition. His deep hatred for the west intensified after he was wounded by an American air strike.
Zarqawi went to Iraq to recuperate and was well-positioned to become a leader of radical Islamic militants when the U.S. invaded in 2003.
By 2004, Zarqawi was so well-known as a ruthless killer that the U.S. offered a 25-million-dollar reward for his capture. It didn't work. Within a year, he declared all-out war against coalition forces and any Iraqis who cooperated with them.
The U.S. military, the FBI, CIA, and State Department had put a bulls eye on Zarqawi's head. But flipping his confidantes failed to produce results.
In the aftermath of media hype over Abu Ghraib, new tactics had to be devised. Matthew Alexander, a pseudonym, head of the interrogation team that turned Zarqawi's own men against the master terrorist. Thanks to the techniques he used, the most dangerous and wanted man in Iraq was finally brought down.
COLMES: Joining us now is the author of "How to Break a Terrorist," Matthew Alexander.
You know, the big debate has been, how aggressive should those techniques be. What were the techniques that were used that led to his downfall? And it might go against what many people would think would be the case.
MATTHEW ALEXANDER, AUTHOR, "HOW TO BREAK A TERRORIST": And that's true. The things that allowed us to break or to convince some of Zarqawi's associates to give him up were techniques that weren't based on harsh methods. They were based on the same things that we used in criminal investigations and techniques that we use every day.
COLMES: So you are saying that those harder methods don't necessarily work. They don't really get you the desired result. And that, by engaging in dialogue, which you talked about in your book, you actually can gain better results than you would in what might be the more intuitive way to go about doing it?
ALEXANDER: That's true. You know, it might be counter intuitive that when a guy walks into an interrogation booth, that you're going to sit down with him and you're going to build a relationship and rapport and show respect for their culture and their religion and eventually convince them to give you information.
COLMES: Are we doing enough of that, or are there too many people using more harsh techniques that are not getting the results we need to get?
ALEXANDER: I think the transition is happening now. I mean, I think it's happened because people have seen the success we — that we've achieved with the new techniques and how effective they've been. And Zarqawi is the perfect example of how the new techniques work.
COLMES: You said some of the things you actually experienced made you sic. You were very upset by some of the techniques you saw.
ALEXANDER: Well, I think, you know, I've tried not to focus on the negative and the things that happened in Iraq. There's been plenty of examples of torture and abuse, not — not — in all theaters. And I think that point has been hammered to death.
I think what's important is we have to find a way to move forward past that, you know. We know that torture and abuse didn't work. And where are we going to go from there? And what I propose in my book is there's new interrogation methods that we can use that are more effective.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, let me ask you this, Matthew. I'm for whatever works. Obviously, the techniques you're describing in the book were successful. And I applaud you for it. It's great that you were able to adapt a new strategy and it was successful.
This was after Abu Ghraib. So this was an important time and, almost for political reasons, you needed to change tactics, correct?
ALEXANDER: That's correct. You know, Abu Ghraib, it not only hurt us just from the viewpoint of our image in the world.
ALEXANDER: It hurt us tactically, because it helped recruit fighters for al Qaeda.
HANNITY: All right. But you're — you are fundamentally against the use of what we describe as torture. But I'm not convinced that we're always going to have the time, the availability, the option to save lives if we're in a situation where we know that American soldiers' lives are in danger and we need information quickly. Your technique wouldn't be the one to use, would it?
ALEXANDER: I disagree with that. I mean, if you look in the book, I talk about the example of a guy named Abu Hader (ph), who gave us Zarqawi.
HANNITY: That's one person.
ALEXANDER: That's correct.
HANNITY: This was a very important interview. And I'm not diminishing it. But why would waterboarding or any of these other tactics or techniques — because let me tell you, I'm just thinking about myself. If I'm — if somebody is taking me, flushing me and I think I'm drowning, I'll tell you whatever you want to know.
COLMES: Well, there's a couple...
HANNITY: Alan Colmes is guilty. I'll tell you.
ALEXANDER: Yes, the first...
COLMES: How about using those techniques?
ALEXANDER: Our opponents expect that. You know, when they walk in the interrogation booth, they expect that.
HANNITY: They expect you to be mean?
ALEXANDER: They expect us to use harsh techniques. They're prepared for that. The al Qaeda manual tells them to expect that.
However, when they walk in and then they are very surprised...
HANNITY: You're nice; you're respectful.
ALEXANDER: ... by the way you treat them with respect...
ALEXANDER: ... this throws them off guard. It throws them off their game, and it's more effective.
You know, you can also take the example of Abu Zubaydah, who was at Guantanamo Bay and was treated very harshly by his interrogators. And he told them, "Hey, you know, if you use the right interrogation techniques, I might — I might cooperate."
And they said, "Sorry, but you're going to get more harsh treatment."
HANNITY: I don't thin this — I think this is imperfect science. And I think you would agree with me. And I think there might be appropriate applications in different situations.
But the fact that you were able to put this together and it worked, God bless you. But I do think there's going to be times where you have to be harsher. That's an outsider's view.
Never? It never will work?
ALEXANDER: And in fact, I don't say that. I don't say that torture doesn't work; it does work on occasion. But what I say is that there's better ways to do it.
HANNITY: Good to see you. Good luck with the book.
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