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  1. #1
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Interrogation Meets T.E. Lawrence

    Moderator's Note

    Five threads have been merged here, some are quite old. The title is unchanged. There are a number of threads on the related debate on the use of torture (un-merged as yet).

    In 2016 three small threads were merged in, notably one with 5k views on intelligence interviewing. A separate, closed thread remains on The USA and interrogation, with 162 posts and 151k views :http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=3041(Ends).


    At the Westhawk blog - Interrogation Meets T.E. Lawrence.

    ... All in all, a good day’s work. Much of the success of this episode can be traced to the rapid delivery of Mr. Jassam’s confession. American interrogators, using the non-coercive techniques in the U.S. Army’s new field manual for interrogations, might eventually deliver equivalent results, but only after a long, drawn-out, and methodical process. The Americans’ conscience will be clean, but the information rendered by this technique will in many cases be unusable for follow-up action or moot (the bombs have already exploded). Perhaps the “ticking bomb” scenario as it relates to the justification of torture is not just hypothetical after all.

    The incident described in this article is one more indicator of how the U.S. military needs to rethink how it approaches low intensity conflict. Instead of an American war in Iraq, this should have been an Iraqi war, with some American advisors assisting Iraqi allies. The deployment of American armored and mechanized infantry brigades is not sustainable in Iraq and will be a non-starter for the next low-intensity conflict the U.S. finds itself in. Conventional American ground combat formations have been culturally unsuited for the task they face in Iraq. And the legal, ethical, and moral constraints on American tactics, techniques, and procedures have resulted in the war dragging on one inconclusive month after another...
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-12-2016 at 08:23 AM. Reason: Add Mods Note Feb 19 2015 and Aug 2016.

  2. #2
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    If we're going to embrace such practices, I'd like to stop hearing the bleating about we're defending civilization in Iraq. There's little worse than a torturer, but a sanctimonious torturer is a true perversion.

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    The new manual sounds like (I haven't seen it, yet) a solution looking for a problem. The old manual forbid torture or coercion; but I understand the Army is dealing with perceptions, not reality, here.

    When commentators like Westhawk, who I now know is completely ignorant of Army Interrogation Doctrine, start treating this as news, instead of explaining that the new manual is eye-wash, and a publicity stunt, I just have to roll my eyes.

    I was an Army Interrogator from 1993 to 1996. I know what the manuals said. I went through the training. An Army Interrogator who resorted to torture would be nailed for a LOLW violation.

    A good interrogation is similar to a job interview, except the guy being interrogated should feel less threatened than your typical job-seeker. In fact a good interrogator should build a rapport with the guy, if he wants to get any good information.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Westhawk, I think, is not encouraging the Army to junk its own standards, but rather embrace torture by our Iraqi allies as a new and welcome form of Iraqization - look, they are so independent, they can even torture suspects on their own - and get more information than Americans as well! He goes on to speculate that if we had only withdrawn most American forces at the beginning of the war and embraced an advisory role, with the Shia Iraqis doing the torturing while the Americans looked on approvingly, then the war would have either (1) ended quickly (2) been able to continue on indefinitely under the media radar.

    What bunk. Iraqi army and police units have been torturing their prisoners since the start of the war - let's not pretend. Ever since the Shia death squads began using power tools in new and interesting ways, violence has only gotten worse, not better. Westhawk is indulging in some cathartic fantasy, perhaps after viewing the latest episode of 24, not serious analysis.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    That's the spirit Westhawk!

    Always make sure tactical expediency trumps strategic disaster. It is always better to feel good while you are losing. (We won't even mention questions of right and wrong. Those are for girly-men.)

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    Council Member Van's Avatar
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    Westhawk needs to be slapped. He's been watching '24', and thinks that is training. Let's look at this; if the source had scammed an Iraqi soldier's brother in a some commercial venture, the source is obviously AQ... The small time scam artist gets picked up and tortured into turning over the landlord, who charges a draconian rent. The Westhawk says we should believe this without question and go blow up the usurous landlord's place.

    And this is supposed to improve things in Iraq? Thank you very much, I'll stick with the authorized techniques.

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Westhawk has been pushing the whole we should just withdraw and let the Shia cleanse the Sunnis for some time now. Of course, it is shortsighted and unworkable, not to mention morally wrong but what the heck, it gets us out, right?

    Brett

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Screening for Interrogation

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    At an even more personal level, I used to train my HUMINT'ers in the principles of indicator analysis for interrogation. The baseline of information regarding kinesics, cognition and emotion is gathered during the first phase of the interrogation (or, if the situation allows, during the first screening interview). In this case, the indicators developed are used, not for "warning" in the standard sense, but to alert the interrogator to deception, potential leads and openings for manipulation of any one or all of the three mentioned aspects of the source.
    This may be off topic but it is pertinent to the above. One of the problems we used to have training interrogators was that the training used to concentrate on the face to face issues. The two areas left un-tapped and never correctly trained for where the before and after. In my opinion, these are usually more important, and denigrated at the table of cunning interrogator ego.

    Circumstances of capture/detention and detailed back story were never really adequately captured in exercise briefs, and nor were "all sources" exploitation, in the aftermath. It all meant we were very likely to end up interrogating people we did not need to talk to at all. Time is and human resources are very finite.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen
    This may be off topic but it is pertinent to the above. One of the problems we used to have training interrogators was that the training used to concentrate on the face to face issues. The two areas left un-tapped and never correctly trained for where the before and after. In my opinion, these are usually more important, and denigrated at the table of cunning interrogator ego.

    Circumstances of capture/detention and detailed back story were never really adequately captured in exercise briefs, and nor were "all sources" exploitation, in the aftermath. It all meant we were very likely to end up interrogating people we did not need to talk to at all. Time is and human resources are very finite.
    The face-to-face interrogation is the most difficult bit for most, which is why so much training time is devoted to that aspect. Yet you are correct in that the before and after phases are just as important – but in my experience in the US Army is that they are not neglected in training (at the schoolhouse or at the units), just not discussed as much outside the field of interrogation. I’ve been through the Brit joint services interrogation training, and they did not exactly neglect those aspects either.

    Also in my experience, once the newly-minted collector has moved on to an operational unit, in-house unit training often does very well in covering the screening, planning & prep and the interrogation aspects – it is the further development of report writing skills that tends to suffer post-schoolhouse. (of course, that’s just my personal experience in a limited number of units – as is usual, the overall reality at other units probably covers the spectrum from limited and poor quality training to outstanding comprehensive scenario exercises)

    The aspect of intelligence support to interrogation and planning and prep for the event, is absolutely critical and is recognized as such by every professional in the field that I am aware of.

    However, in the tremendous amount of media coverage and discussion of interrogation methods over the past several years, I’ve seen almost nothing that discusses planning and preparation for, or intelligence support to, interrogation. And absolutely nothing that deals with the tedious nuts and bolts of writing any of the variety of intelligence reports that may be produced from an interrogation. Those aspects are dull and boring for public consumption compared with heated discussion of what constitutes abuse of a source.

    Chapter 6 of the current FM 2-22.3 deals with Screening, and Chapter 7 covers Planning and Preparation. Paragraph 6-3 speaks to your final point:
    The resources (time and personnel) allocated to screening must be balanced against those required for interrogations, debriefings, and other collection methodologies. Although screening is not in itself an information collection technique, it is vital to the rapid collection of information. Through screening, the effectiveness of limited collection assets can be maximized by targeting those assets against the sources with the highest potential of providing key information. Screening requires experienced individuals with maturity and judgment who are totally knowledgeable of the collection requirements and able to make well-reasoned decisions based on limited information. Collection (interrogation, debriefing, and elicitation) can be integrated into screening activities; however, it slows the screening process and decreases the number of potential sources that can be screened.
    When I said ….if the situation allows, during the first screening interview., I did not mean to imply that the screening process may be dumped. Although it is often abbreviated, and certain effective methods of screening may not resemble those taught at the schoolhouse (the Brits taught one very effective method that will probably never be seen at Huachuca), screening in some form is always conducted. This holds true whether the situation involves a single collector out working with the infantry or if it’s dealing with a detainee that's been evac’ed to the JDIC. What I was referring to in my statement was that in many situations the individual who will conduct the interrogation does not conduct the screening – or is not even physically present to observe the screening.

    The ideal, practicable in many operational scenarios in the COE, is to for one collector to conduct the screening and then to shift directly into interrogation if the source warrants. The manual’s reference to the integration of collection and screening that it slows the screening process and decreases the number of potential sources that can be screened is really only applicable when you are dealing with large numbers of prisoners at one time. When dealing with individual detainees, or prisoners in smaller numbers, it is far more effective to integrate the process. Breaks can be taken to obtain/verify information necessary to support the interrogation, but it is almost always more effective if the source is dealt with by one collector throughout the initial screening and first interrogation. The collector’s development of source indicators, tells, leads – whatever label you prefer to slap on it – begins from the moment he first lays eyes on the source. The obstacles, as always, are the language capabilities and experience level of the collector.

    And all of that means absolutely nothing if the information obtained can’t be put clearly and concisely in a report that has meaning for the commander.

  10. #10
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    I did my stuff back in the days of Ashford and JSIW/ JSIO, and admittedly, I have not been in an I room since 93' so I am hoping all has improved for the better. It certainly should have based on all the operational experience.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen
    I did my stuff back in the days of Ashford and JSIW/ JSIO, and admittedly, I have not been in an I room since 93' so I am hoping all has improved for the better. It certainly should have based on all the operational experience.
    I went through training with the Brits in early '90 - and at that time their training was far more practical and operationally-based than was the US equivalent. The US course still had the student interrogator fixed behind a desk with a massive binder notebook in front him for all the interrogations in those days - even during the field exercise.

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    The course hasn't gotten much better. I went through the 10 level course as a reclass last year. I met other NCOs who couldn't do the basics of the job and had to be recycled -- we had Warrant Officer reclassers that were recycled. Two of my peers couldn't ID OBL from a photo.

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    Default Interrogation in Afghanistan

    Hi, I've been reading several things lately on interrogation and I just have some questions I'd like to run past the board.

    One piece that I read was from "Educing Information" that suggested that research on areas comparable to interrogation found that pain, pressure, and coercion might actually distance a source from giving valuable intel. While another article that I read was quoting former Interrogators in Afghanistan as saying that stress positions and sensory deprivation were the only way to get actionable intelligence from bad guys.

    I'm mean, there are good examples from Algiers and the Tamil Tigers given in several of the things I've been reading that it can get info, but that it might distance population, be immoral, ect.

    So I was wondering if there was anyone that could give their first hand, near first hand, or educated opinion of what works better with Afghan EPWs, rapport posture, or coercive interrogation.

    Second, given the current political environment, and an increasing likelihood that I will deploy to Afghanistan, even if rapport posturing is less effective, how can it be made most effective?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Exclamation Caution here

    Dritalin,

    From my UK armchair and being a moderator your two questions sail very close to sensitive matters, even OPSEC. I would encourage others to answer with caution.

    PM sent to Dritalin.

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-03-2009 at 10:14 AM.

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    Use the forum search feature and the keyword interrogation. Although the discussions are more general than specific, due to reasons that David mentioned, there is commentary and links that are useful.

    I will say that your second-hand comment:
    ....stress positions and sensory deprivation were the only way to get actionable intelligence from bad guys.
    ...is completely untrue, and whoever stated such nonsense is an amateur treading along the path to criminal action.

    Second, as a cherry 35M, you need to seek out experienced NCOs and Warrants for advice and mentoring. They won't come to you - it needs to be the other way 'round.

    I also recommend that you get on BCKS MI Space, specifically the HUMINT & CI area, and look through the material and post any RFIs you may have. (Access requires AKO log-in) Discussion can be a bit more open in that forum, but although it is relatively secure compared to an open board it is still an unclass forum with limits to how far you can go on that subject.

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    dritalin:

    The US Army has doctrine on how to interrogate. This doctrine is fairly open and should be easy to find with a simple internet search. Nowhere within that doctrine is there the type of "interrogation" you have read about. I would suggest that a liar has talked to a naive journalist who didn't do due diligence before running a quote that supported his/her preconceived stereotype about interrogation.

    The saddest thing is that this is now "ground truth" for an entire generation of idiots... Regardless of what really happens in interrogation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm
    ....I would suggest that a liar has talked to a naive journalist who didn't do due diligence before running a quote that supported his/her preconceived stereotype about interrogation....
    Unfortunately, I know of times/places in both OEF/OIF where such a statement from a military interrogator would be truth, as perceived from a narrow range of experience.

    Interrogators with no experience outside of Huachuca, placed across from difficult sources for which the rote interrogation training they've had did not effectively prepare them, will sometimes resort to questionable methods out of frustration. This is due to failures in leadership and training; the two are inextricably linked.

    Even supposedly experienced interrogators will sometimes tread down the same mistaken path - it all depends on the nature of that experience and the character of the interrogator. A difficult interrogation is an intense experience for both the source and the interrogator - and as with other high-pressure situations, it can either bring out the best or the worst in a person. When leadership and oversight is lacking, it often tends to be the latter.

    You can find some of that sort of thing in The Interrogators. The book fails to provide any substantive lessons with regard to interrogation, but it does illustrate the failure to prepare (failures in leadership and training) that particular group of interrogators for the nature of the mission at hand.
    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm
    ....The saddest thing is that this is now "ground truth" for an entire generation of idiots...
    Even sadder is that some of those for whom this is "ground truth" are currently serving.

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    Council Member mhusband's Avatar
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    I was listening to CSPAN a couple of months ago and they had a former CIA agent giving testimony about his experiences with interrogation of some of the 9/11 and Taliban captives.

    In the session with the congressmen he stated that for you to get actionable intelligence quickly it is far better to "out whit" the captive than use coercive techniques which is what many captives are trained to withstand.

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    dritalin - I wrote one of the chapters you refer to in the "Educing Information" report. Others have offered the wisdom of their experience in their here (and there are some very experienced HUMINTers among them). In the HUMINT world that experience is remarkably valuable.

    Having said that, anecdotes are dominating the public debate about intelligence interviewing. Some people are saying "I know a case where a guy was subjected to X and then he talked." Does that mean that X works?

    My I re-frame your question a bit? Instead of trying to decide "what works better with Afghan EPWs", it might be useful to think about how you would develop a plan to determine what kind of approaches might be more or less successful with a particular detainee, from whom you are seeking particular kinds of information, in a particular context. Whether a strategy "works" is not simply a matter of whether a detainee "talks" or provides information. The objective is accurate, useful information in a strategically-relevant timeframe. It is certainly possible to create conditions in the interrogation that interfere with the accuracy of information.

    Regarding the use of coercive techniques, the FM sets the ground rules for now. Those techniques do not appear to have a promising future in US interrogation policy. I did a recent book chapter with a couple of colleagues on recent trends in US interrogation policy and practice which I have on my SelectedWorks, if you're interested: http://works.bepress.com/randy_borum/ (Jedburgh - I hope providing this link does not violate the forum's ROE. If so, let me know and I will remove it. I was just trying to be responsive to the RFI - Thank you, sir)

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    Quote Originally Posted by rborum View Post
    ....Regarding the use of coercive techniques, the FM sets the ground rules for now. Those techniques do not appear to have a promising future in US interrogation policy. I did a recent book chapter with a couple of colleagues on recent trends in US interrogation policy and practice which I have on my SelectedWorks, if you're interested: http://works.bepress.com/randy_borum/ (I hope providing this link does not violate the forum's ROE. If so, let me know and I will remove it. I was just trying to be responsive to the RFI)
    Randy - many of the board members have their own websites and blogs, and the board admins and moderators do not have an issue with any of them discussing/linking their own material in the context of an ongoing discussion or in response to an RFI. It is only when someone comes to the board and their only participation is to throw up links to their own stuff that it is considered equivalent to spam.

    Back to the discussion, your point that interrogators should develop a plan to determine what kind of approaches might be more or less successful with a particular detainee, from whom you are seeking particular kinds of information, in a particular context, is very important. Interrogation is all about nuance and fine specifics; any general one-size-fits-all approach that is claimed to be effective is a gross misrepresentation of the case. Of course, human beings being what they are, even interrogators trained to understand nuance and fine specifics can get lazy over time and end up approaching every source with their preferred method, ignoring indicators that it won't succeed. That is why in most of my discussions of the subject I continually stress the necessity of leadership involvement, continual professional development and sustained mentoring for the development of an effective core interrogation capability.

    Looking at your website, I just realized that the paper Interviewing Al-Qaeda-related subjects: A law enforcement perspective is a slightly modified version of the NCIS paper Interviewing & Interrogating Militant Islamists: A Law Enforcement Perspective - by the same authors, of course. A bit over two years ago I wrote a rambling, informal review of the latter piece here.

    Ted

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