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FBI Wants To "Advance the Science of Interrogation" 252

Posted by samzenpus
from the tell-me-everything dept.
coondoggie writes "From deep in the Department of Creepy today I give this item: The FBI this week put out a call for new research 'to advance the science and practice of intelligence interviewing and interrogation.' The part of the FBI that is requesting the new research isn't out in the public light very often: the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which according to the FBI was chartered in 2009 by the National Security Council and includes members of the CIA and Department of Defense, to 'deploy the nation's best available interrogation resources against detainees identified as having information regarding terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies.'"
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FBI Wants To "Advance the Science of Interrogation"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2012 @10:17PM (#39669131)

    "Torture is a well known technique, shown to be effective many times in history."

    Indeed. During the Middle Ages tens of thousands of people have confessed to being witches.
    Very effective.

  • by Frangible (881728) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @10:21PM (#39669173)
    Indeed, and this is something we can progress in without recreating incidents that gave us little intelligence but cost us a great deal of goodwill.

    An example of the more recent advances in interrogation used by the US -- still actively taught today, actually -- came from studying how American POWs in WWII were interrogated by the Luftwaffe's master interrogator, Hanns Joachim Scharff. Sort of like the Erwin Rommel of interrogation.

    I'm sure the image that most people have about Germans interrogating US POWs in WWII is like an ill-tempered Jack Bauer, but that wasn't the case at all, at least for Scharff.

    Scharff's techniques were purely psychological, and did not rely on causing physical or (much) psychological distress. I'll try to briefly summarize what I recall reading quite a while ago. Scharff would treat prisoners well, and engage them in conversation, even giving them leave to walk with him outside the base. He would take note of what they said, at first without prying that much, and then in later conversation where they felt more comfortable around him, interject those things learned earlier in ways that the prisoner would elaborate on a topic that they would not normally divulge, perhaps even under torture... usually without even realizing they had given him the intel he wanted.

    It required extreme attention to detail, patience, interpersonal skills, and getting to know and understand who he was interrogating. Much more difficult than torture, but it produced consistently good results.

    I don't know what advances can be made in interrogation in the future, but as Hanns Scharff proved, they need not all be brutal to be effective.
  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:10PM (#39669469)

    From the accounts I've heard, the FBI aren't big supporters of torture. In the early days of interrogating prisoners from Afghanistan, there were FBI agents involved. CIA contractors asked for permission to get rough, against FBI recommendations and experience. When permission was granted, the FBI yanked their people from the interrogations. Things went steadily downhill after that.

    At least that's what I've read and heard. If someone can clarify or correct this, I'd appreciate it.

  • by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Thursday April 12, 2012 @11:34PM (#39669591) Homepage

    As others have pointed out, torture generally does not lead to useful intelligence. It leads to hearing exactly what the torture victim thinks you want to hear.

    The FBI is obviously working on advancing the state of the art of educing information. Effective educing generally does not include torture. A detailed examination of various techniqure is here (pdf) [fas.org].

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:59AM (#39670007)

    It's funny, but I don't recall that the NKVD [wikipedia.org], KGB [wikipedia.org], SMERSH, or other secret police organs of Soviet Power in the USSR worried about blood feuds from torture, or any of that. They simply tortured and killed in staggering numbers [harvard.edu].

    The KGB prison [genocid.lt] in Vilnius at The Museum of Genocide Victims [muziejai.lt]

    solitary confinement cell [travbuddy.com], KGB style.

    Surprise! [youtube.com]

    And the Gulags?

    What Were Their Crimes? [gulaghistory.org] Living in the Gulag [gulaghistory.org] Stalin World - Lithuania [youtube.com]

    The Great Terror: A Reassessment [amazon.com]

    - - - - -

    Torture is ineffective and diminishes the society that condones torture. I still think that the stories that came out last decade are a big part of why American society is so psychotic today.

    Some small segments of American society did become unhinged, yes, but not anything close to all of American society.

    Keep in perspective that: Only Three Have Been Waterboarded by CIA [go.com] The most recent of which was about 9 years ago.

    Many people are also mistaken regarding what went on at Abu Ghraib. The Army put a stop to abuse by a handful of rogue soldiers who were abusing prisoners, court martialed them, and sent them to jail. All the news media really did was report the news of the Army investigation, and what had gone on. Of course it is more profitable, poltically and financially, to spin dark conspiracy theories when the reality is closer to Jackass: The Movie [wikipedia.org].

    Iraq abuse photos were `just for fun' [taipeitimes.com]

    Private Lynndie England, the woman who has become the emblem of the US' shame over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, on Tuesday showed little expression aside from an occasional nervous giggle at a hearing to determine whether she should face the full weight of a court martial.

    When first confronted with pictures of her gloating over naked and cowering Iraqi prisoners, England had shown no alarm, telling the officer who led the investigation of the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq: "It was just for fun."

    That lack of comprehension returned to haunt her yesterday as the prevailing view of the US military -- that England and the handful of other lowly reservists charged in the abuse were rogue soldiers -- began to emerge more fully.

    "They didn't think it was that serious. They were just joking around and having some fun during the night shift," Chief Warrant Officer Paul Arthur told the court.

    He added later: "From the get-go, it was jokes and frustration." . . . .

    If England is convicted on all 19 charges, she could face 38 years in the brig. Some 25 witnesses are to appear including Specialist Joseph Darby, the soldier who first came forward about the abuse, and Specialist Jeremy Sivitz, who was granted relative leniency for cooperating with the investigation.
    Much of the prosecution's evidence is from photographs, with more than 280 images of abuse of detainees, . . . The images first came to the attention of the authorities last January.

    Arthur, a member of the military CID, was at Abu Ghraib when a soldier in England's military police

  • by tophermeyer (1573841) on Friday April 13, 2012 @09:41AM (#39673339)

    LEO's in suspect interrogation often use a method called the Reid Technique. It usually starts with several hours of questioning and rapport building to wear down a suspect (fatigue plays a HUGE factor in our ability to deceive). At some point the interrogator will begin moving to a "help us out here, we want to understand" kind of attitude.

    One facet of the technique is to identify the individuals values and priorities (kids, job, etc) and offering up potential explanations of the crime that implies they are a bad father, husband, employee etc. If the person is sufficiently fatigued and has built some kind of rapport with the interrogator, the idea is that they will offer up a full confession as a means of explaining why what they did makes them a good father, husband, employee, etc.

    Military interrogation is more about general information gathering. Like you describe, a lot of that experience comes out of WWII where we would collect simply vast amounts of information from POWS that individually is largely meaningless, but in aggregate is informative.

    Current research with body language, eye tracking, etc indicates most of that is junk. An increase in activity can identify when an individual is nervous about something, but it doesn't necessarily indicate deception and is incredibly sensitive to gender, culture, and (interestingly) language background. The literature talks about these kinds of things as Pinnochio's Nose; some behavior that manifest only when the person is lying, and every time the person is lying. Unfortunately this singular diagnostic behavior doesn't exist.

    Source: Worked for a couple of years as a deception researcher, exploring various methods of deception detection.

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