nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

Some things a professional might do instead

Chasing down the link crazysoph gave me led to this by Terry Karney
from this thread, all of which may be of interest:
The main trick of interrogation is to get the subject talking. The prime difference between military and police interrogation is intent. The cop is asking questions to which he thinks he has the answer. He also has the club of punishment to wave at the subject.

I don't have those. In a classic war, the guy across the table is going to be here until he is exchanged, or the war ends. Gives me very little leverage.

So we use a bit of head game. Take advantage of the shock of capture, the silence he's been kept in, the segregation he's undergone, and the sense of loss, shame, helplessness, and fear that go with it.

We look for clues, his attitude, his rank, the condition of his gear; his uniform, how much ammo he had (and how much it was, relative to the rest of the dead and the captured) how many people were killed and wounded in the fight, his pocket trash (which includes things like letters and photos).

We then make nice, offer him a cup of coffee, a cigarette. Engage in chit-chat. Feel him out. Ride the clues.

Is he an officer? Did his unit get stomped? is he actinf proud anyway? Then maybe I belittle him, tell him a trained chimp could've done better, get him angry enough to blurt out information.

Maybe his unit was stomped, but he seems at a loss... ashamed. Then I tell him no one could've stopped it, build him up. Get him to tell me why I'm right.

The trick (and it's the only trick we really need) is to get them talking and, to not make them think we want anything other than a truthful answer. Once they start to talk, I will get everything he knows, or at least everything my commander wants.

I may offer him things... like the chance to write a letter home the instant we get done talking. This is half a lie. He gets to write home when I let him out... well no. He gets to write a given number of letters a month, and I might, were I inclined to be cruel see to it that he had to wait three weeks to do so, but easier to promise him things he's entitled to, because most people are not trained in what their rights are, as a POW.

Once he starts to talk I'll use what I already know (order of battle information, previously fond information, weather/road conditions) to verify the things he says. That's called, "using control questions," and it's one of the hardest things to teach a new interrogator.

He says he's in an armored unit, and the patch on his sleeve matches that... OK. Half a control. He says they have tanks, I ask what kind. He says T-72s. I know (or check) that unit has that type of tank. That's a better control question.

I ask how many and he says his platoon has five... DING alarm bells go off, because the Order of Battle for his army has four tanks in a platoon. I ask how long they've had four tanks. He says one week. I ask why they have four tanks, and he says the Company Commander attached himself to the unit. It all makes a certain amount of sense, so I write up the change in the OB, and go on.

Later I ask him questions about the Company Commander and when they match what he said before, I consider that to be a repeat question. I'll ask any number of questions, to which I have an expectation of answer, based on what I've been told, by the subject. Consistency (and I'm taking notes) is a sign of honest recall by the prisoner. He may be wrong, but it is as he remembers it, and that's what matters.

If he tries to tell lies, I'm going to spot the discrepancies, esp. if I'm doing a complete OB interrogation. The lowliest of privates takes about two and-a-half hours to give up everything a full OB takes. An officer can take a couple of days, and when one gets to COL and above, it becomes a serious project.

Before I go into the booth I get a briefing from the OB NCO (which was the job I did in the box). He is responsible for keeping track of the battlefield, as best it is known at the time.

What booth time I got in Iraq was to get some fast controls in, when the interrogators (we used two, with an MP for guard) weren't sure about the guys story. It was easier for me to go in and ask the questions, than it was to try and brief them enough (they hadn't been keeping up with events as well as I, but then I spent about four hours a day tracking things, so...) to get the answers.

There are other types of interrogations, ones which are faster, because rather than try to get everything he knows, we are only interested in certain types of information.

We also had a larger repetoire of inducements to talk. Because we had so many who were no more than farmers, who got swept up my nervous MPs we could tell them that, barring some evidence they were just farmers, the MPs would take them to Talil, or Basra. Talil was the nearest and that was something like 100 miles away.

I recall one interrogation where the source wasn't talking. Which is a pain, because we were pretty sure he was nothing more than a tomato farmer, and if he continued to stonewall, the MPs were going to take him to Talil, and he's be there for a couple of days, and then left to make his own way home.

The lead interrogator drew a stick figure of a man, and of a woman, in the dust on the table. They were holding hands. He then said, if you don't talk to us... and rubbed out the connected hands.

The man started t cry, and then to talk. We sent him home four hours later.

On the down side... there were guys who liked to make the sources cry, who worked at it.

And we did keep them isolated, until after we'd talked to them, which was a problem when we had a lot of them, because (as I said last April, in Making Light) we didn't have enough shade.

Done right, it's effective, and doesn't need torture, because if the subject is willing to talk to me, about anything... I can eventually get him to start talking about the army, and then I can get everything. In for a penny, in for a pound. The only defense is to answer nothing but the big four.

Date of birth
Service Number.

If you talk about anything else... you'll talk about everything else.

And that's why the situation at Abu Ghraib bothers me. These were not that time sensitive, these guys didn't need to go off the reservation. If they had as many prisoners as they say they did (and this is just in April, when the fighting in Falluja was the primary thing on the agenda) they could afford to take the extra hour or so it might have taken to get a guy talking.

And before April... they had all the time in the world, because the more prisoners one has to work with, the easier it is to get them to talk. You can play on fears. I come to talk to A: Ten minutes later I come to talk to B:, along about the time I get to G, he will be afraid, because A-F have not been seen since. He's probably been told we will torture, and then kill, him. He's convinced himself this is happening. When all I want to do is ask questions, he tells all he knows, because in his mind he's saving his life.

On the flip side, if I start to hit him, he resists, because that is what he's been trained to do, avoid giving up information in exchange for pain.

And we know this doesn't work. If you think torture is useful in breaking people, and thus garnering information, talk to John McCain, or anyone else who had a room at the Hanoi Hilton.

I guess that'll do for now.

More from Terry Karney:

Remember the maxim, "No one is a villian in their own eyes." It gives the interrogator leverage, the trick is to find what the subject needs to prove to other people to redeem himself.

Cops tend to play on guilt, "Come clean, get it off your chest and find forgivness."

I don't get that, usually. But I have a slew of oher things I can play on. Love of comrades, or family (and the flip side, some people feel they've been betrayed, they want to get even). Fear (being a prisoner is very unsettling, one hears rumors, imagines all sorts of horrors, and until they are confirmed, or dispelled, the anxiety is a powerful motivator. One can play on that, finding out one is not going to be tortured can lead to gratitude, and a desire to please).

As for why they keep talking. We say we own them, once they start talking. There are two ways to do this. One is to not let them know they've given anything up. Great, if one has the time to set it up.

Anecdote, from Scharff. He was asked to find out what a stream of white tracers meant. He spent a week talking to a pilot. Nothing relevant. He took him for a walk, they talked.

He took him for another walk, and pointed at an anthill, made comparisons to industry, and observed that the Americans must be having supply problems, because they had a shortage of red tracers, and were using only white ones.

The kid, full of pride said "Hell no, we got all the tracers we need, but some of us put in a dozen or so near the end of the belt so we know when we're out of ammo."

Never knew he'd given it up.

The other way is that they feel guilty about betraying their side, they are afraid that it will come out that they gave aid and comfort to the enemy. They decide to keep talking so the captor will remain happy with them, and not tell anyone they talked.
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