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Condensed from years of Field work; scientific rigor (controlled experiments) not possible in their work; different priorities. Their doctrine of elicitation runs counter to the perceptions of interrogations, and portrayals in Fiction/Movies.
This is a really disappointing book. It is comprised of anecdotes...about 150 pages worth, then a commentary and a few other appendices as fillers. The authors may have had very successful and impressive careers but there is so little of substance in the book and it is worthless to anyone wanting to learn. For example: a whole chapter is devoted to an imaginary interview with OJ Simpson...de facto this chapter is nothing more than fiction. I guess it is included because the authors had nothing to say! Which in my humble opinion sums up the book.
This is a practical, timely and important book. It uses a "rhetoric of action" (look it works because it's working) to make the case for a more ethical approach to interrogation than the good-cop/bad-cop of Hollywood and detective fiction.
Only rank amateurs, the authors claim, would ever try to extract confessions and information by upping the voltage or giving the thumbscrews another turn. The only approach that has any chance of success is exactly the opposite.
Those who really know what they’re doing try to take all traces of violence or confrontation out of an interrogation, turning it instead into an interview based on chummy sympathy and understanding. Good interrogators will lower their voice, talk slowly, claim empathy with their suspects and then — well, and then just keep on talking lowly and slowly seems to be the gist. Because what appears to work best is an interrogator who chats on and on, quietly, reassuringly, understandingly, often repetitively.
‘We all make mistakes, Brian. Nobody’s saying we don’t make mistakes because, you know, Brian, we all make mistakes,’ and so on and on and on.
The comforting drone of the interrogator’s monologue may sound mindless, but it is carefully created and should contain five key features. These are: 1. rationalising the action (you needed the money); 2. projecting the blame (it was their fault for not paying you enough); 3. minimising the seriousness (we’ve all nicked Post-it notes); 4. socialising the situation (this kind of thing happens a lot, it’s nothing we haven’t seen a million times); 5. and emphasising the truth (if you could explain what happened when you took the money, that would be great and would help us all move on).
The skilled interrogator will mimic thorough understanding of the worst crimes to keep up the pretence of being on the suspect’s side, even when dealing with acts of terrible violence, gross betrayals, fraud, theft, murder. At the same time, the interrogator will be intent on keeping that suspect locked into a mode of short-term thinking — keeping the focus on particulars and specifics, trying like crazy to stop the suspect considering the long-term consequences of telling an implicating truth and being found guilty.
The appendix of the book includes a commentary that touches on the applicability of this approach to jurisprudence, selling and negotiation. Particularly valuable is the discussion of the extent to which the interrogator should lie to build rapport with their subject. Less good are allusions to the schlock psychology of mirroring, touching elbows and so forth. Simple tips like bringing donuts and sandwiches to the meeting are enough.
All of this coincides with my experience and that of my father (a successful counter-terrorist). The book declares that it is not a position paper on the CIA’s so-called “advanced interrogation techniques”. Nevertheless, it is an overdue counterweight to the US’s unfortunate reputation for brutality.
this is an interesting and potentially useful read - it won't make you an instant expert, but does describe the tools and techniques that the experts use, and which provide a starting point to work from - having read it, I found myself in situations at work where I was able to steer the outcome of conversations and was much more aware of what might have been untruths or an attempt to conceal the truth