May 30, 2007

"Educing Information: Interrogation: Science and Art: Foundations for the Future"

Bush's "secret enhanced interrogation techniques", also known as "we do not engage in torture," have been judged as ineffective in practice by experts consulted by the intelligence community's Intelligence Science Board (ISB).

Today's New York Times has a front page story on last December's ISB report.

As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods -- possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda -- are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history. ...

But in meetings with intelligence officials and in a 325-page initial report completed in December, the researchers have pressed a more practical critique: there is little evidence, they say, that harsh methods produce the best intelligence.

"There's an assumption that often passes for common sense that the more pain imposed on someone, the more likely they are to comply," said Randy Borum, a psychologist at the University of South Florida who, like several of the study’s contributors, is a consultant for the Defense Department. ...

(S)ome of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called "Educing Information," say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.

"It far outclassed what we've done," said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., "had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly," and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.

Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts "amateurish" by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.

The Intelligence Science Board study has a chapter on the long history of police interrogations, which it suggests may contain lessons on eliciting accurate confessions. And Mr. Borum, the psychologist, said modern marketing may be a source of relevant insights into how to influence a prisoner’s willingness to provide information.

"We have a whole social science literature on persuasion," Mr. Borum said. "It's mostly on how to get a person to buy a certain brand of toothpaste. But it certainly could be useful in improving interrogation."

"Educing Information: Interrogation: Science and Art: Foundations for the Future," Intelligence Science Board, Phase 1 Report, December 2006 (374 page pdf)


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