Thursday, June 30, 2005

Truth Extraction: Be Kind to Your Captives

Via Buzzflash, I came upon this article in the Atlantic. Unfortunately, I'm not a subscriber, but I was intrigued by Buzzflash's blurb on the article:

Truth Extraction: A classic text on interrogating enemy captives offers a counterintuitive lesson on the best way to get information. Read this if you can. Find it in print. Basically, it says that "being nice" is a much more effective interrogation technique, something experienced interrogators have always known and the Bush admin ignored. 6/29

Now, fortunately, I did find a blog- the Booman Tribune- with some nice quotes in it too. The money quote:

The successful interrogators all had one thing in common in the way they approached their subjects. They were nice to them.

That led me to the US Marines Corps Interrogator Translator Teams Association, who probably know a thing or 2 more about this than armchair torture apologists. From their website:

In addition to being illegal, these acts [of torture] are frequently ineffective and counter-productive. The Romans threatened the early Christians with crucifixion, being burned at the stake, or being fed to wild animals in the Coliseum if they did not reject their new religion and embrace the many gods of Roman: Thousands chose death. Joan of Arc was tried before an ecclesiastical tribunal accused of witchcraft and heresy because she claimed to be guided by divine voices. She was told to admit that she heard no such voices or be burned at the stake: She was not dissuaded by death. William Wallace, of Braveheart popularity, was hanged, drawn and quartered because he refused to swear allegiance to King Edward I. The threat of certain and excruciating death was ineffective in dissuading these and their deaths had opposite effects: the slaughter of Christians contributed to the conversion of Rome; Joan of Arc is widely remembered today while few remember the name of the French king she served and who contributed to her demise; and, the death of William Wallace invigorated the Scots to successively eject the English from Scotland.

This is not to say that coercive techniques always fail to influence or prompt some action. These techniques have caused men to do as their abusers wanted them to do or say, and, at times, caused the unintended death of the detainee; for example,

1) "The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."

Napoleon Bonepart (5)

2) Four days after the war started and two days after he was captured, an American lieutenant was heard broadcasting over Seoul radio on behalf of the Democratic People's Republic of [North] Korea. He was followed by others making similar statements and even confessions of using germ warfare weapons. It wasn't long before a journalist explained what was happening to them: "Americans are being brainwashed in Korea." Although these men were not "tortured"--as defined at the time by the U.S. Army: "the application of pain so extreme that it causes a man to faint or lose control of his will"--they were coerced and abused into saying what the Koreans/Chinese wanted them to say. (6)

3) During the Vietnam War, Americans were, in the most profound sense of the word, tortured into making confessions of using bacteriological weapons against the North Vietnamese and other acts considered to be criminal by the world community: statements the Americans knew were false.

4) According to the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, duress, coercion, and violence (threatened or performed) have led innocent Americans to confess to crimes they did not perpetrate. The Project reports that, "33 of the first 123 postconviction DNA exonerations involve false confessions or admissions." (7)

5) On 27 May 2004, The New York Times reported that on 30 August 2003, LTC Alvin B. West, an artillery battalion commander, detained an Iraqi police officer named Yehiya Kadoori Hamoodi for interrogation because West believed the officer knew about a "plot to ambush him and his men." West "made a calculated decision to intimidate the Iraqi officer with a show of force . . . [even though he previously] had never conducted or witnessed an interrogation." The Interrogation of Hamoodi, that included hitting him and threatening his life, failed to produce the desired answers. West then fired his pistol next to his head. Hamoodi gave West the names of several men who were purportedly involved in an effort to kill him. One man was picked up and shortly thereafter released; none of the named men were determined to be involved in the so-called plot. Later, "Mr. Hamoodi said that he was not sure what he told the Americans, but that it was meaningless information induced by fear and pain."

6) According to a 12 June 2004 Navy Times story, two Marines, during "motion hearings" held on 28 & 29 June 2004, faced charges in connection with the death of Nagem Sadoon Hatab, a 52-year-old Baath party member who was being held in a makeshift detention center outside Nasiriya. Allegedly, Hatab had been struck and kicked on 4 June 2003 and the following day was lethargic and had defecated on himself. On 6 June, he was found dead...

... I do feel obliged to shine a little light on some alternatives to torturing and/or abusing detainees. For the curious, I invite you to read the basic reference for trained U.S. military intelligence interrogators, FM 2-22.3 (FM 34-52) HUMAN INTELLIGENCE COLLECTOR OPERATIONS. You would also find illuminating the book: The Interrogator: The Story of Hanns Joachim Scharff Master Interrogator of the Luftwaffe. This German interrogator purportedly gleaned information from every one of the American and British fighter pilots he interrogated without ever resorting to violence. This is not surprising when you consider: FM 2-22.3 states that direct questioning "works 90 to 95 percent of the time." Even Gen Aussaresses admits in his book, "most of the time I didn't need to resort to torture, but only talk to people." Trained interrogators, of course, know this--the operant words here are, "trained interrogators."

Another precept that is foremost in the mind of a trained interrogator is that: the interrogator does not know what the source knows. Think about it! Isn't that the reason the interrogation is being conducted in the first place? This point has profound implications for those who are untrained and/or inclined to use coercion.

There's more, much more there.

I suspect this is a good policy in general. It helps, of course, if you have the guy in custody from whom you want to get the truth, so I suspect it won't work on Bush or Rumsfeld, until, at least, they have to meet with a prosecutor over something, which doesn't seem likely today.

Here's another link on suggestions on how to interrogate Japanese POWs.

It is fascinating to me just how this differs from what we've seen from the torture cheerleaders.

This is not only common sense, it's ethical, and effective.

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