Tom Ricks wrote that he saw extraordinary failures at five levels: Bush and company, intelligence, military, congress, and press. Ricks's Fiasco covers the military angle. More people should read Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine, which covers the intelligence angle.
Here we have a short passage quoted by Educated Guesswork:
Educated Guesswork: Running out of maneuvering room: From The One Percent Doctrine:
KSM's two children, a seven-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl, were also in US custody, picked up when the Karachi safe house had been raided the previous September. From Langley, a message was passed to the interrogators at a secret detention center in Thailand, where KSM was being held: do whatever's necessary.
According to several former CIA officials interrogators told KSM his children would be hurt if he didn't cooperate. The response, said, one CIA manager with knowledge of the incident: "He basically said, so, fine, they'll join Allah in a better place."
The traditional models of debriefing, used by both FBI and CIA, involved the building of a relationship, no matter how long and arduous a process. It's the need for some human contact, some basic comfort, rather than simply the bottomless human fear, which ultimately triumphs. The captive's previous life starts to fade and is slowly replaced by one constructed, often ingeniously, by his captors. This method the FBI still recommends.
That's the gamble. Once you do something as horrific as threaten someone's children, and it doesn't work--there's nowhere else to go.
Still needed are good books covering the congressional angle--why have the committee chairs of the Senate been so weak?--the press angle--why haven't they resigned, donated all their goods to the poor, and taken up a life of anonymous service to others?--and the riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an engima of colossal stupidity that is Bush and his administration.