Monday, February 16, 2015

The Dark Science of Interrogation

...“Most police officers can tell you how many feet per second a bullet travels. They know about ballistics and cavity expansion with a hollow-point round,” says Mark Fallon, a former Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent who led the investigation into the USS Cole attack and was assistant director of the federal government’s main law enforcement training facility. “What as a community we have not yet embraced as effectively is the behavioral sciences.”

Failures of interrogation can have tragic results. Of the 325 people exonerated in the U.S. by DNA evidence, more than a quarter had confessed under interrogation, falsely admitting to violent, often unspeakable acts. As for the war on terror, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released in December on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program is a long and detailed argument that waterboarding, extreme sleep deprivation, rectal feeding, “wall-slamming,” and other techniques were not just harmful, but also counterproductive. Part of the problem, as a 2006 report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence put it, was a “shortfall in advanced, research-based interrogation methods.”

A small community of interrogators and behavioral researchers in the U.S. and abroad has set out to change that, developing an alternative set of practical, science-based techniques, many of which run counter to what’s been taught in police academies and outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual. Five years ago, President Obama created a new intelligence body, the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, to handle suspected terrorists; one of its teams questioned Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after his arrest. The HIG, as it’s called, has funded scores of studies.


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