New Research Suggests Enhanced Interrogation Not Effective
Newsweek - Daily Beast
May 25, 2012
By R. M. Schneiderman
Several weeks ago, I found myself seated in a small, white-walled room in midtown Manhattan, facing a two-way mirror. Sitting across from me was a man dressed all in black, clean-shaven with shoulder-length hair.
"You were suspected of a theft that took place today," the man said. "Where were you 30 minutes ago?"
Thirty minutes ago, a woman had asked me to walk down a dimly lit hallway and into a small office, where I would find a briefcase sitting on a counter. Inside the briefcase was a wallet, which she told me to take. My interrogator wouldn't know what I'd chosen, the woman said, but no matter what he asked me, I had to lie.
So when the man in black asked me if I had entered the room or seen anything in it, I looked him in the eye, feigned confusion, and told him I had no idea what he was talking about.
I expected his glare to soften but it didn't. I grew anxious. The wallet was still in my pocket. I wanted to get rid of it, but I knew a video camera was recording my every expression. Soon my interrogator explained that another video camera had captured me in the hallway, that a witness had seen me enter the room, and that fingerprints found on the briefcase matched my own.
I was cornered. I offered a partially true variation of my story. After I finished, a sense of dread passed over me. By withholding the information and asking strategic questions about things he already knew, the interrogator had forced me to change my story, which suggested I was lying.
Fortunately, my interrogator was not a law-enforcement officer; he was a graduate student at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who was testing his ability to distinguish between liars and truth-tellers.
The situation I'd been placed in mimicked a recent experiment conducted at John Jay through the FBI's High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), a team of leading research scientists and interrogators formed by President Obama in 2009 to question high-level suspects and research better methods for getting them to reveal what they know.
For years, this sort of research into interrogation techniques has been virtually nonexistent. Analysts say that the stigma of the CIA's experiments with mind-altering drugs during the Cold War has long tainted the field. Until recently, the dominant paradigms for both lie detection and interrogation were based mostly on anecdotal police evidence. What little scientific research existed was "purely useful in law-enforcement settings, and mostly about false confessions," said Steve Kleinman, a career military-intelligence officer who served as an interrogator for the Defense Department.
"24 works in Hollywood," said Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who now runs a private intelligence firm that teaches countries and companies interrogation techniques. "Reality is not as sexy. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
"Terrorists are trained to resist torture," Soufan wrote in his 2011 book, The Black Banners. "Being attacked by dogs, being sodomized, and having family members raped in front of them are some of the things they are physically and mentally prepared to endure."
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