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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Interrogation Techniques

The following is presented as a guide to interrogation techniques. Using them takes training and practice, but knowing about them may help you avoid falling for the "tricks".

The specific techniques or approaches used in an interrogation are the "role" that the interrogator will "play" while trying to "break" or get information from a source. We used to teach roughly 13 approaches (depending on how you count them), here they are in no particular order.

Good cop-Bad cop. Everyone has heard of the "good cop-bad cop" approach used in Hollywood movies. The last I heard, the US Army is no longer teaching this method because it implies a threat of violence. The military has gone PC, which is not a good thing. This method requires two interrogators, one plays the "good cop", who tries to convince the source that he is there to protect the source from the "bad cop" who is there to terrorize the source. The source will talk in order to avoid the implied or actual threat of violence.

Silence. Used on very nervous sources, or one that is agitated, the interrogator just sits and stares at the source until he starts to talk just to break the silence. This works well with children, too.

We know everything, AKA Dossier. Walk in with a thick file folder padded with anything you can put into it, and act like it is the file on the source's unit or recent activity. You'll see this one used in some of the CSI-type shows. The idea is to make the source believe that you are just looking for verification of data that you already had, and that he is not really giving up anything useful. Salting the file with actual information helps this approach work.

Fear up/Fear down. These two are related in that the interrogator will work on the fear already present in the source. Fear up is trying to instill fear of what is going to happen if the source refuses to talk. Fear down is calming the fears of a source that has (usually) just gone though a traumatic experience. The goal ios to either scare them into talking or calm them enough that they can talk.

Ego up/Ego down. Ego up is the building up of a source's ego to get him to talk about things. Braggarts tend to tell more than they intend to, so this works well on boastful people. Ego down is putting down a source in order to get him to justify his actions.

Direct approach. Simply talking and asking questions works on a large percentage of people. I talked to interrogators after they came back from the mess in Grenada in the '80s, and they said this was the most useful method and that it worked about 90% of the time.

Incentive. Another one that is commonly used in the "justice" system, usually trading information for a lighter sentence. The cardinal rule was to never promise anything you can't deliver. Once trust is broken, it is broken forever. You'll have to pass the source off to another interrogator, who will have a hard time getting more out of him. Little things like a cigarette or cup of coffee can be an "ice-breaker" and get a person to start talking. Promises of better living conditions or early release are harder to fulfill, but may get a better response.

Futility. "Your part in this is over, we got you and we're going to win, so why not talk to me? I'm going to find out what I want to know anyway, why not from you?" This one works on despair as well as the possibility that you may treat them better than their former supervisors did.

Rapid fire. Peppering a person with questions, without a chance to answer, may cause them to blurt out something they were trying to withhold. Another one that works best with more than one questioner.

Repetition. Asking the same small set of questions over and over. A good way to catch a liar, but it can cause extreme frustration.

Emotion up/emotion down AKA love/hate. Exploiting a source's love of country, friends, or cultural differences or hate of discrimination, working conditions, or commanders. This one require quite a bit of knowledge of the opposing side's culture and habits.

Here's the US Army manual on POW interrogation.

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