What I am about to share with you are some basic interrogation techniques that are employed by law enforcement agencies and operators around the globe. Keep in mind that your objectives will likely be different than those of an intelligence agency, the military or law enforcement, but you can still achieve your desired outcome by applying these “soft” techniques.
There is a good deal of psychology that plays a vital role in interrogation, some to extract information such as facts and some to gather evidence. There are also techniques, which are employed or essentially used against the subject when the interrogator or team senses that they did the crime or act and just want a confession from the subject to confirm it.
The reality of soft interrogation today is that some of it has no scientific basis. It’s more of an interaction between the subject and the interrogator (s) through question and observation. In other words, watching for responses, gauging responses and body language.
Because we are discussing interrogation, I would feel remiss if I did not at least mention some of the enhanced interrogation techniques that likely play no role in your life, but never the less are employed to certain higher value detainees.
These types of techniques include but are in no way limited to; sleep deprivation, extended noise subjection, beatings, threats to the subject and or their families, waterboarding, confining subject to uncomfortable or contorted positions for prolonged time frames, food and or water deprivation, using highly specialized pharmaceuticals on the subject, use of tools on the human body, burning, withholding medical care, walling (this is just a term describing a method of assaulting the subject using a wall to bounce them off of), pulling out teeth without anesthesia, pulling off finger nails, cutting and much more.
Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT’s) are considered by many to be a form of torture and a full outright reckless disregard of human rights. No matter what you think, we live in world filled with uncertainty. A world in which some believe it is okay to kill or sanction the deaths of others because of religion or some radical ideology.
The bottom line is while EIT could be considered by some as a euphemism for unjust torture, with the ever-evolving threat of terrorism looming over our heads, and no exacting warning system for the same, I believe we must have that option on the table as a tool to help combat violence.
I know that sounds harsh to some but the reality of the war on terrorism is harsh and if we want to prevail in this asymmetric warfare environment, we must come to grips with the application of enhanced interrogation techniques.
Let me tell you a quick story, my team and I were hunting down this group that had kidnapped a young girl and one night while I was gathering intelligence I identified a tail…someone was following me.
As I casually walked down one of the main streets I decided it was time to set my ambush.
Picking up my pace a little, I turned into one of the side streets and ducked into a doorway that lined the city blocks. I had been timing my shadow-the person following me to sync up to their breathing and movements. There was a good deal of ambient noise to mask any movement or noise I may have made that would have exposed my plan.
With my body prepared to move, I waited just until he passed the sidewall of the building doorway before I quickly moved into position behind him. I executed a rapid grab and tug technique snapping my right hand around and under his chin bringing him off balance. Now with my left hand wrapped around his forehead, I tugged him back and into the doorway dragging his feet on the floor. This maneuver allowed me to gain an immediate superior tactical position over the subject.
As I dragged him deeper into the doorway, using the head as a primary control point, I did a quick visual for weapons before flipping him over onto his stomach. I immediately dropped my full weight driving my left knee into his rib box to inflict pain.
With his hands clear and him moaning in pain, I was then able to pat him down from head to toe without complications. Next, I reached across his back and took a firm grasp on his wrist and pulled it sharply up his back, and then pinning it in place grabbed his other wrist and inserted them both through a flex-cuff.
Again I flipped him over and sat him against the inner wall. Now that I had complete control it was time to interrogate this guy and find out why he was following me and who hired him or what group or organization he was with.
At first I kneeled down next to him so that I was at a forty-five degree angle to his body. I stared at him for a couple of minutes without speaking to let the psychological affect of what just transpired seep in. As he sat on his behind with his hands secured behind his back, I began to take notice of his physical characteristics.
He appeared to be a 30-35 year old male, slim muscular build with a scar across the right cheek. Standing he was probably about 5’9”, which was slightly taller then his average countrymen.
He had a defiant look in his eyes, one that told me he was tough. In my experience ‘tough’ is a relative term. I initiated this little information session by calmly asking his name. There was no response. I again whispered softly into his ear asking his name, but still nothing.
I did not have a lot of time to extract the information I needed. This direct action had created a bit of exposure I did not need. I had to find out if it was a situation in which someone wanted me or it had to do with the recovery operation. Either one could have easily compromised our mission, and time was a critical factor to reduce exposure.
I could not risk being seen in this situation, so I had to institute my own brand of enhanced interrogation tactics on this gentlemen to speed up the process.
Pulling the ball pen from my shirt collar and fully covering his mouth with my support hand, I thrust it twice into his right thigh muscle midway between his knee and hip. Now with my thumb still capping the pen, I applied pressure downward while rotating the pen to further grind into his flesh.
He was yelling something in his native tongue that came out garbled, but in hearing the distress in his voice, I think he got the point. In the end, I got what I needed and was able to use that intelligence in a way that stopped something bad from happening.
Consider if you will a scenario in which that individual was performing pre-surveillance in lieu of a terrorist act, one that could easily kill hundreds of innocent men, women and children.
The question you have to ask yourself is “would you use or sanction enhanced interrogation techniques if it could save those people and stop that attack from happening?”
While you are pondering that, let’s go back to basic interrogation tactics and discuss six techniques that are fundamental.
Good Guy-Bad Guy or Hard and Soft Technique:
This technique is executed as a 2-person team in which one person plays the good guy and the other the bad or tough person. Parents often do this with their children, sometimes without knowing it. It works well when one team member is physically bigger in stature than the other and that person assumes the role of the bad “guy.”
With the subject in a room with the interrogation team, the soft or good guy may open up a line of questioning to the subject such as, “so Victor where were you last night?” Maybe Victor states he was home alone or with some friends.
This technique should be predicated on the fact that you have background on the individual along with the type of offense committed and you have a strong suspicion thru evidence or otherwise that you feel he or she is good for the act.
Now its time for the “bad” guy to interject their role. He or she would need to do a bit of acting and really take on an angry mean appearance. Part of that acting might include banging on a table in front of the suspect, throwing a chair across the room and getting right in the suspect’s face. He or she might say something in a very angry loud voice such as, “this guy is lying, let’s just stick him in a cell right now.” “You are too soft on him, you need to leave me alone with him for two minutes so I can have a chat with him on a level he will understand.”
Of course this type of good guy-bad guy routine continues for several minutes and then finally the soft person tells the rough and tough person to leave the room. Then the “good” guy tells the suspect how his partner is a crazy person and he is always getting in trouble for crossing the line. They will follow with something like, “he is definitely one guy you don’t want to mess with.”
He or she will make a statement that distances themselves from their partner and his or her ways such as, “ I really wish the guy would work with someone else, I can’t stand how out of control he is.”
The “good” guy or gal will then appeal to the suspect in a soft voice as he physically moves closer to them and might say something like, “it would be better if you did this thing, just tell me cause I don’t want my partner coming back in and hurting you.”
The key to the pitch is that the suspect is thrown off by the rough and tough guy routine and is more apt to listen to the “softer” person.
Point Blame Technique
In this technique we lay blame on the victim or victims or the people that they are working for. For example, we have what we believe is a murder suspect in the interrogation room. My script might go something like this: Walter, I can’t blame you. They way that guy wronged you in that business deal (or if it was a husband that killed his wife)…I don’t blame you.
She was a terrible wife. She probably never gave you a home cooked meal or did any of the chores she was supposed to be doing while your out earning a living every day. And she probably was a screamer right? Yeah I’ll bet she yelled at you every chance she got. No, I don’t blame you. It does not matter who you are, you should not have to live with someone that treats you that bad. That’s abuse (giving them an idea about how to defend their position). I’ll tell you myself that if my wife or girlfriend treated me like that I’d probably get rid of her also. I’ll bet you had a hard time moving the body.
To be effective as an interrogator you must understand every facet of the person from their behaviors to body language, even body type-as there is some correlation between body type and demeanor.
In any case, the idea here is that you offset the blame on the victim or their boss or employer in an effort to get them to talk.
Charm Their Intelligence or Conscience Technique
In this technique we appeal to the suspect’s intelligence or conscience. For example, we’ve got a situation in which the suspect reportedly employed a firearm in the commission of the crime. The interrogator purposely avoids discussing the criminal act itself and might start with…
Listen, I hope that you got rid of the gun. I know you would not want anyone else to find it and shoot someone by accident. What if a kid were to find that thing, imagine that? (If the suspect has children, that line works better). Did you take the gun apart and bury the pieces? I really hope you put in it in the sewer.
The main idea here is for the interrogator to get the suspect to acknowledge getting rid of the weapon. That is your confirmation that you have the right person and that they in fact did try to “bury” part of the evidence.
4. Rationalize Technique
This is a technique wherein the interrogator fabricates a rational type answer for why the suspect did what they did. For example, the gal sitting in the interrogation room is suspected of providing material support to a known terror cell or group.
My tactics might go something like this…I believe that ABC terror group or an individual forced you to do it. I think they threatened you or your family and you had no choice.
The other way to play this is that as the interrogator you look to the victim and get the suspect to rationalize that what they did was justifiable. It might go something like this…those people have been doing terrible things to your people for decades. They say one thing but I know secretly they do all sorts of terrible inhumane things to people just like you. I believe in the end everyone gets what he or she deserves. There is no doubt that this was bound to happen sooner or later.
Bottom line here is that the interrogator offers up some excuse for committing the act that can be rationalized by the suspect-all in an effort to get them to admit to the crime. Double Agent Technique
5. This is a great technique but requires some level of planning to execute properly. It could be a situation in which there is a single suspect or a group of suspect’s. The main idea is to get the “Agent” to befriend one of the suspects in an effort to get them to talk about the act.
This information acquired now is essentially a weapon, which would be used against the suspect or their group. I can personally attest to the effectiveness of this technique applied in this manner and its application in covert operations to get close to a target.
Another method of applying the double agent technique is that there are two “agents” wherein Agent # 1 attempts to get close to the suspect. He or she will attempt to befriend them while agent #2 simply listens from a distance. The reason for doing it like this is that in some cases the second agent’s testimony may be used in a court of law to help get a conviction.
The High Low Technique
In this technique you essentially get the suspect to opt for a reward or gift by making a case for how bad it is going to be for him or her. It’s basically a form of brainwashing. Step one is to strip the individual of their dignity. We usually start this by putting them in a room completely naked for a while or sit them in a chair nude. This type of interrogation is usually a long delivery-in other words it could go on for an extended period of time.
The suspect / prisoner is not allowed any human contact with anyone that he or she knows. This in itself weighs heavily upon their conscience mind and with time causes a sense of despair.
At some point, when the individual is truly in despair, you now offer them a slice of heaven. This could be in the form of a cigarette, food, water, soft drink or even a cot to lie on and some fresh clothes. You then let them taste this “high” for a short time.
The individual at this point will start to believe again that they have something to live for, something better than what they had…now the interrogator attempts to draw out information or a confession from the individual in hopes they will see that they can gain something if they cooperate.
If on the other hand the subject is still resistant, the interrogator will once again take away everything from them, stripping them of their identity and putting them in isolation. This process will repeat itself until the interrogators get what they want.
This technique in the manner in which I describe it falls under the guise of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”, and is used at black sites around the world, however it does not have to be that extreme to work. It can be reconstructed to fall within the boundaries of a normal interrogation technique.
The takeaway here for this technique is that the interrogator is psychologically and sometimes physically inducing a highly uninviting picture of what life will be like so that when they offer up the “reward” it is such a welcome feeling and sensation that the person will choose the reward. In doing so the interrogator gets what they need out of the situation.
I will say that if a person is guilty and they are subjected to this technique, they will likely opt for the reward, but on occasion it has been known to backfire on interrogators especially in cases where they snatched up the wrong person or a very low level person.
What happens some times then is that the subject will create information to get the reward and stop the pain.
It is therefore critical that the interrogators have a full briefing package on the subject of the interrogation as well as whatever details of the act the subject has supposedly committed.
Also of note is that this brainwashing technique in its extreme form has been employed by several country’s military and intelligence agencies in an effort to recruit a potential asset.