In 1993, FBI agent Brad Garrett was investigating bank robberies when his supervisor sent him to a shooting at CIA headquarters in Virginia. Five employees had been shot outside the compound; two were dead. It took Garrett four years to hunt down the shooter, Mir Aimal Kansi, in Pakistan.
Now retired, Garrett is one of the few federal agents ever to track down a terrorist overseas and bring him back alive. Garrett, who considers himself a homicide cop, talked recently about the experience.
Traveling to Pakistan every few months, Garrett developed leads. “Combined with the fact that this guy was considered a hero,” the deck seemed stacked. “But I guess it’s like anything else; perseverance seems to pay off. We finally got what we needed: a source.”
Garrett realized before ambushing Kansi that he might mistakenly grab the suspect’s brother, so he brought fingerprints. “Once we got him cuffed, I got right on top of him, took a thumbprint, and put the print on a piece of paper. I saw a match and knew he was our man.”
Garrett later visited the suspect regularly in prison because Kansi had intelligence about Pakistan and Afghanistan. “He knew he had committed a horrible crime, and I had a job to do,” he says. “He had respect for what I was doing. I showed him respect.”
On death row, Kansi needed money for toiletries, which Garrett gave him. The prisoner paid him back. Kansi also asked the agent to attend his execution. Garrett did.
“The case taught me so much about life and relationships and being respectful of people’s cultural heritage and traditions,” Garrett says. “All of that stuff is very important in getting people to help you.”
Lesson: “How you treat people, how you approach people, is crucial,” he says. “It doesn’t make any difference what part of the world you’re in. If you want people to talk to you, if you want them to be truthful, they have to bond with you on some level—feel like they can trust you. Sometimes it takes a lot of time, but that’s how you get people to talk.”
Fear and punishment won’t force cooperation, Garrett says: “You reap what you sow.”
—Adapted from “They Call Him Dr. Death,” Harry Jaffe, Washingtonian.