Interrogation jargon

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Wed May 15 15:31:27 UTC 2002

The following is excerpted from an article in the Wall Street Journal last month.  I mislaid the bibliographic data, but it was on the front page and the dateline was April 26.

Interrogators — the Pentagon renamed them “human intelligence collectors” last year

The Fort Huachuca course culminates in 10 days of field exercises using generic foreign powers: a fictitious U.S. ally, the Republic of Arizona, and its totalitarian nemesis, the People’s Republic of New Mexico.

Soldiers then study 30 techniques to make prisoners crack. One is the simple “incentive approach.” Around the world, “everyone smokes,” Sgt. Giersdorf tells students. “If you’ve ever talked to a captured Arab who hasn’t smoked for two hours, a pack of smokes can get you a long way.”

Other techniques involve considerably more pressure.
“Fear-up” employs “heavy-handed, table-banging violence,” an Army field manual says. “The interrogator behaves in a heavy, overpowering manner with a loud and threatening voice” and may “throw objects across the room to heighten the source’s implanted feelings of fear.”

“Fear-down,” in contrast, targets terrified prisoners. Interrogators try to calm them, asking about personal or family life, eventually interjecting the questions they really want answered. The technique “may backfire if allowed to go too far,” the manual cautions, raising a prisoner’s self-confidence to the point where he won’t feel he has to answer.

When all else fails, there’s “pride and ego down,” where interrogators belittle a prisoner’s “loyalty, intelligence, abilities, leadership qualities, slovenly appearance or any other perceived weakness,” the manual says. “It’s the last ditch,” says Sgt. First Class Katrina Cobb. “After you’ve spent time insulting someone and it doesn’t work, they’re not going to talk.”

Sgt. Giersdorf tells students, “You can put a source in any position you want. You can chain his legs to the chair, you can handcuff his hands behind him,” force him to stand at attention or have military police thrust him to the ground. “If [a prisoner] says it hurts, is it torture?” he asks.
“Yes,” say several students.
“No, it’s not,” the sergeant corrects. America’s allies, he says, go farther, placing prisoners into what he calls “stress positions” until they talk. Those aren’t taught here, he is quick to add, but “if you work with the Brits or the Dutch or the Germans, they can show you all about it.”

Depending on their personality, age and physical bearing, interrogators tend to prefer different approaches. “My favorite is ‘pride and ego up,’ ” says Spc. Carrie Clark, 26, of Stoneboro, Pa., because “you have to make them feel good, that you’re their best friend.” In it, a prisoner thought to have been “looked down upon for a long time” is flattered and made to feel that by providing information, he can “show someone that he does indeed have some ‘brains,’ ” the manual says.

      - James A. Landau

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