Perhaps you remember Abdallah Higazy? He was detained as a material witness to the World Trade Center attacks when FBI agents found a transceiver in his hotel room. It later turned out that the transceiver belonged to a pilot who was staying on another floor, and he was released. However, between his detention and his release, he confessed to owning the radio and gave three separate accounts of how it came into his possession. He was detained, interrogated, and treated as possibly complicit in a massive terrorist attack. He knew he was in tremendous danger, even though he also knew he was innocent. Why did he confess?
It turns out that FBI Agent Michael Templeton threatened to turn Egyptian security forces on Higazy’s family, who still lived in Egypt. This scared him so badly that he’d admit to anything in order to save them from the consequences. So Higazy agreed to trade his life for the safety of his family, which is a noble act, but perhaps not so remarkable as the FBI’s decision to force that choice upon him. What’s interesting about this is that the details of Templeton’s threat have been classified.
Here is a portion of the redacted opinion:
“To give you an idea, Saddam’s security force—as they later on were called his henchmen—a lot of them learned their methods and techniques in Egypt; torture, rape, some stuff would be even too sick to . . . . My father is 67. My mother is 61. I have a brother who developed arthritis at 19. He still has it today. When the word ‘torture’ comes at least for my brother, I mean, all they have to do is really just press on one of these knuckles. I couldn’t imagine them doing anything to my sister.”