Ali Soufan, American Hero

"We're the United States of America, and we don't do that kind of thing."

In the months ahead, as the full details of the Bush administration's decision to leave the rule of law behind and illegally torture human beings for intelligence, the experience of Ali Soufan will be vital for understanding how what happened happened. Like many other individuals along the way - Ian Fishback, Alberto Mora, Antonio Taguba come to mind - Soufan saw what was going on, understood immediately that it was illegal and immoral and did all he could to stop it. He failed but he may provide critical evidence of the war crimes of Cheney in the invesitigations that should and will come. He was the first to interrogate Abu Zubaydah and he gained a treasure trove of information without violating the law or core American values. From Mike Isikoff's must-read:

"We kept him alive," Soufan says. "It wasn't easy, he couldn't drink, he had a fever. I was holding ice to his lips." Gaudin, for his part, cleaned Abu Zubaydah's buttocks. During this time, Soufan and Gaudin also began the questioning; it became a "mental poker game." At first, Abu Zubaydah even denied his identity, insisting that his name was "Daoud."

But Soufan had poured through the bureau's intelligence files and stunned Abu Zubaydah when he called him "Hani"the nickname that his mother used for him. Soufan also showed him photos of a number of terror suspects who were high on the bureau's priority list. Abu Zubaydah looked at one of them and said, "That's Mukhtar."

Now it was Soufan who was stunned.

The FBI had been trying to determine the identity of a mysterious "Mukhtar," whom bin Laden kept referring to on a tape he made after 9/11. Now Soufan knew: Mukhtar was the man in the photo, terror fugitive Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and, as Abu Zubaydah blurted out, " the one behind 9/11."

As the sessions continued, Soufan engaged Abu Zubaydah in long discussions about his world view, which included a tinge of socialism. After Abu Zubaydah railed one day about the influence of American imperialist corporations, he asked Soufan to get him a Coca-Colaa request that prompted the two of them to laugh. Soon enough, Abu Zubaydah offered up more informationabout the bizarre plans of a jihadist from Puerto Rico to set off a "dirty bomb" inside the country. This information led to Padilla's arrest in Chicago by the FBI in early May.

The reason Cheney and his acolytes are waging such a tough war in the public arena right now is because they know that men like Soufan know the truth. The more desperately the torture-defenders insist that their tactics gained results, the more they reveal how only those alleged results can justify the law-breaking and evil they trafficked in. But let it all come into the sunlight. Let's get a commission to look at everything in proper context. Then decide whom to prosecute. And by then, the junta party may be a little less flecked with spittle.