Countering Violent Extremism, Counterintelligence, Counterterrorism, Crisis Management, Insider Threats, Interview & Interrogation, Research, Torture
If Trump wants waterboarding, this could be why
Christian Science Monitor
“There was so much false and fabricated information coming out of these interrogations – though I hesitate to call them interrogations because it discredits professional interrogators – that we wasted time and resources, and the threat level kept going up and up because of fabricated information,” says Mark Fallon, an interrogator and former deputy assistant director for counterterrorism at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The usefulness of rapport-building techniques is precisely the point, says Mr. Fallon, the Naval investigator who also served as chairman of the High-Value Research Group that Mr. Obama established in 2009 to study the effectiveness of interrogation approaches. Mitchell, he notes, comes to the issue as a Search Escape, Rescue, and Evade (SERE) clinical psychologist for the Air Force. The program teaches US troops to resist torture. But a resistance survival program based on other nations’ torture techniques should not be the basis for the US interrogation, says Fallon. Mohammed’s behavior shows why, he adds. “When we first had detainees at Gitmo [Guantánamo], we couldn’t shut them up. You think [Mohammed] wasn’t proud of what he did? He could spout about how great he was, things he did to the Evil Satan United States,” he says. “When you start out with abuse, and two months later you’re playing basketball or chess and saying, ‘I made this amazing discovery,’ well, you may have done it two months earlier if you didn’t start with the abuse.” The value of rapport-building techniques is borne out in the past decade of research, as well as in his own practical experience, says Fallon, author of the forthcoming book, “Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture.” “We’ve gotten good information with tea and cookies, with French fries and food, by allowing detainees to make a call home,” Fallon says. “If you started a conversation yelling at me, how likely am I going to be to respond?” For this reason, the most effective interrogators at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan in 2001 were “the folks borrowed from the FBI” who used Mafia family-breaking techniques “to figure out the network,” recalls a former senior US Army officer. “There was no need or inclination for EITs.” Cultivating some level of respect and trust goes a long way. One of the most helpful discoveries the High-Value Detainee Research Group has been the nearly forgotten work of a Nazi interrogator named Hanns Scharff. Early on, he witnessed a brutal interrogation and decided that would not be his method. Instead, he would take the POWs in his charge on long walks, let them read US newspapers, and even allowed one pilot to take a plane up in the air and land it (with just enough gas in the tank to do both), so that they could debate the pluses and minuses of their country’s aircraft later in a bar he had built specifically for his prisoners.