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April 24, 2015

Important Articles on Interrogation

The interrogation techniques being taught and used today (including coercive methods) have never been tested in a scientific setting. Though they may produce confessions, there is no guarantee that the confessions are truthful. Some experienced interrogators are now investigating empirically which techniques work and why.

The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), run by the FBI in cooperation with the CIA and Department of Defense, has been at the forefront of developing techniques that rely not on physical or psychological pressure but on rapport-building and empathy.

For years, research into interrogation techniques has been virtually nonexistent, and after 9/11 the standards for acceptable interrogation were degraded as torture was normalized. While experienced interrogators say that torture is ineffective, now research is showing the same.

Multiple reviews (including an internal review) have determined that CIA torture was not as effective as the agency claimed. Meissner is part of a group of internationally renowned psychologists doing research on the effectiveness of current interrogation practices, who have found that strategies based on building rapport are more effective than accusatory and abusive practices.

The authors of this study have interviewed human intelligence (HUMINT) analysts and interpreters who have supported interrogations about their experience in an attempt to establish knowledge of and best practices for the interrogation process from their point of view.

For this study, 42 highly experienced military and intelligence interrogators were interviewed about their interrogation-related practices and beliefs, including the topic of coercive vs. rapport- and relationship-building techniques. These interrogators noted that successful interrogations usually use the latter, with help from well-prepared interpreters and analysts.

This study measures the success of the “Scharff Technique,” named for Hanns Joachim Scharff, a German interrogator during World War II, against other more direct techniques (open and direct questions). The study finds that the Scharff techniques of anticipating the interviewee’s behavior (provide as little information as possible, figuring out what information the interrogator is trying to elicit, etc.) and gathering information in a way where the interviewee does not realize he is providing it, are more effective than direct approaches.

The authors of this study test the efficacy of two emotion-based interrogation approaches outlined in the Army Field Manual, and the results suggest that both Positive and Negative emotional approaches are more effective for eliciting information from both innocent and guilty participants than a Direct approach, which is usually the primary approach in intelligence interrogations.

Veteran military interrogator Colonel Steven Kleinman explains the differences between real-life interrogations and those on television or in movies, and explains why coercive interrogation techniques are ineffective at getting a suspect’s cooperation, which is the interrogator’s end goal.

Steven Kleinman refutes advocates of “enhanced interrogation” and torture, writing that with the creation of the High-Value Interrogation Group (HIG), we will be able to more fully understand that torture is not an effective interrogation tool. The politics surrounding the issue of torture may be contentious, but the HIG’s research will settle the matter for policymakers in the future.

This article looks at military intelligence interrogations, and compares two camps of thinking on interrogation: an “intelligence at any cost” mindset, and one that advocates adhering to moral standards and identity as American soldiers. The first has a longer history than many acknowledge, but the latter is actually the dominant tradition within U.S. military history.

The debate over interrogation can be divided into three categories: the legal, the moral, and the operational/strategic. This article provides a brief assessment of the current state of strategic interrogation, as well as a prescriptive plan for its future. It also provides a brief history of interrogation, and the debate over torture.

Problematic police interrogations sometimes lead to false confessions. This article reviews the techniques and controversies related to police interrogations, addresses the gaps in scientific knowledge and myths/misconceptions about interrogations.

Interrogation expert and former intelligence officer Stuart Herrington writes that professional interrogation is a developmental process, requiring extensive preparation, in-depth analysis of the prisoner, and guile, wits, and patience. Detainee interrogation is not like a water spigot, and unlike portrayals in popular culture, treating suspects with respect elicits better results than torture and abuse.

A collection of scientific papers on the issue of interrogation which point out the gaps in research and in examining the past and current state of interrogation, propose areas for further development and improvement of interrogation practice and study. 

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