Just days ago high-profile al Qaeda suspect Anas al-Libi was leading a quiet life in Libya's capital. Now, thanks to a crack American special forces team and a precise operation, military sources say he's spending his hours aboard a U.S. Navy ship floating in the Mediterranean.
The next step for the American government, according to experts, is to get the man who has been wanted for more than a decade by U.S. intelligence to spill what he knows about his former organization, presumably including the location of its leaders and, most urgently, information about ongoing plots targeting the homeland or America's interests abroad.
National security experts told ABC News that to do this, the U.S. has most likely brought in the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), which is comprised of some of America's best interrogators, analysts, subject matter experts and linguists from across the intelligence community. The group was created in 2009 to conduct just such important intelligence interrogations.
But what is the HIG allowed do to get al-Libi to break? Waterboarding? Deception? Torture? Time to separate some fact from fiction:
Can They Waterboard Al-Libi?
Perhaps the most well-known and controversial interrogation tactic is the use of waterboarding, in which interrogators subject the detainee to simulated drowning. A signature tactic among the CIA's Bush-era "enhanced interrogation techniques," some high-profile critics, including President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, considered it flat out torture.
It will not be used in the al-Libi case, as long as the HIG is following the rules.
In January 2009, then-newly elected President Obama issued Executive Order 13491, which revoked previous permissions for extraordinary interrogations and instead directed interrogations to be conducted in compliance with the Army Field Manual. That manual specifically prohibits waterboarding and a number of brutal or humiliating tactics.
How About Physically Hitting, Using Electric Shock?
No, sir. In the same section of the Army manual that bans waterboarding, so too physical abuse is banned.
"If used in conjunction with intelligence interrogations, prohibited actions include, but are not limited to… applying beatings, electric shock, burns, or other forms of physical pain," the manual states. The manual calls physical abuse an "obvious" example of "impermissible coercion."
"EITs [enhanced interrogation techniques] are out the window," Ali Soufan, former FBI interrogator, told ABC News. "They won't have any waterboarding or slapping or anything like that like before. But it will be a professional interrogation and it will be a team that has all the components of the expertise needed in an intel-based interrogation."
What About Threats of Pain?
That's also a "No." And that goes both for threatening that the U.S. interrogators will cause pain for non-cooperation and threats that the U.S. could turn the detainee over to "non-U.S. entities" for their own harsh interrogation, according to the Army manual.
However, interrogators are free to play into the subject's own pre-existing fears.
For instance, should the detainee be in a position to be released, interrogators can exploit concerns he may already have about what he could face back home. As part of what the manual calls the "Fear-Up Approach," if the subject already fears his people could punish him for cooperating with the U.S., the interrogator can point out that he's already at risk and can promise, with the subject's cooperation, to do his best to "ensure that either no one will find out or that he will be protected."