Sunday 23 March 2014

CIA Interrogation Psychodramas

In 1996-97 several CIA interrogation manuals were de-classified by the Pentagon. These manuals, which were labeled "The Torture Manuals," provided interrogators with tools for getting information and confessions out of prisoners.

The interrogators were instructed to stage "psychodramas" - carefully constructed plays utilizing insights from the psychology of persuasion to maximize the odds of a confession. This post will list these various psychodramas and describe them in the words of Douglas Rushkoff in his book Coercion: Why We Listen To What "They" Say.

"Nobody Loves You" - "The subject is told that other detainees are denouncing him maliciously."

"The Witness" - "Leads the detainee to believe that someone else is confessing. A secretary simply emerges from the 'witness's' interrogation room and pretends to type reports from her notes. As she does, she asks the subject how to spell certain words closely linked to the activity of which he is accused. Then the interrogator emerges and tells the frightened subject he is not needed anymore. A desperate confession usually follows."

"Ivan Is A Dope" - "Involves making the hostile agent's boss or organization look like they don't care about him: 'Sell the agent the idea that the interrogator, not his old service, represents his true friend.'"

"Spinoza and Mortimer Snerd" - "The interrogator asks lofty and confusing questions for which the subject could not possibly have answers. By the time the interrogator asks a question that the subject does know, he is relieved to be able to answer correctly."

"The Staged Escape" - "Interrogators pretend to be agents from the prisoner's own country. They 'kill' the captors, bring the prisoner to 'safety,' then ask him to tell them what he did not reveal to the enemy."

"Alice in Wonderland" - "Interrogators ask silly nonsensical questions and use bizarre vocal inflections that make the prisoner think he is hallucinating."

"Under the Spell" - "Subjects are convinced they have been successfully hypnotized. The interrogator suggests to the subject that his arm is about to become very warm. What the subject does not know is that the arm of his chair has been heated. If the subject believes a great force is controlling him, he has an excuse to surrender."

"Mutt and Jeff" - "This routine is just a version of the good-cop/bad-cop technique employed by the boys on 'NYPD Blue.' The CIA manual describes the script:
The angry interrogator accuses the subject of... offenses, any offenses, especially those that are heinous or demeaning. During the harangue, the friendly, quiet interrogator breaks in to say, 'Wait a minute, Jim. Take it easy.' The angry interrogator... says, 'I'm going to take a break, have a couple of stiff drinks. But I'll be back at two - and you, you bum, you better be ready to talk.'
"After the 'bad cop' is gone, the 'good cop' offers the prisoner a 'fair chance to tell his side of the story...'"

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