(Editor’s Introductory Note: The following article is presented as an intellectual exercise, or gedanken. Be forewarned that there are mentions of torture (mental and physical) herein which are of course not conscionable behavior! But this mention is only for the sake of showing the full range of potential interrogation techniques, and as a warning that in the future — under different circumstances — you might have to be prepared to resist interrogation. “Forewarned is fore-armed.” Again, none of the following is intended to encourage any SurvivalBlog readers to do anything immoral, or illegal, or unethical. It is in your own best interest to learn about interrogation techniques, even if you never intend to use them yourself. If nothing else, this knowledge could prove useful to recognize when subtle interrogation and propaganda techniques are being used against you. – J.W.R.)
(Author’s Introductory Note: This is not a manual for interrogation, but rather an attempt to convince the preparedness community of the importance of seeking out references on this topic. The methods and mindsets associated with interrogation are too large to catalogue in even one book, let alone an article.)
“All Warfare is based on deception.” – Sun Tzu
In the best case TEOTWAWKI scenarios, such as earthquakes or hurricanes, our survival training and preparedness will enable us to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe until order is restored, and we can get back to our lives. In the absolute worst case scenarios, such as economic collapse, terrible plagues that wipe out large parts of the population, or nuclear apocalypse, the American Prepper may be facing complete anarchy for an extended period of time. In these scenarios it is highly unlikely that the supplies that have been set aside will last for more than a few months, and I’m sure that your planning on raiding your local Wal-Mart or other superstore, but remember, so is everyone else. In this new Darwinian world money will have zero value, and there will be two ways in which a lone survivor or a family unit will be able to obtain more supplies. You can barter, or you can take, and in order to take, you must know where the goods are. Now I consider myself a moral man, so the idea of stealing repulses me, especially if that stealing will cost other persons their lives due to starvation or inability to defend themselves. But here is the simple truth, not a whole lot of other survivors will feel that way. In the initial months following the “event” there will be a quick culling of the herd. Those unprepared for the scenario will starve, and those willing to prey on others (I.E. criminals, immoral persons, or simply desperate regular people who quickly adapt an extremist mindset) will stockpile what they can take, while killing those who stand in their way. Of course Preppers will be holed up in bug-out locations, waiting for all this to blow over. But what comes after? Afterwards we will be forced to look outside for more supplies, whether by farming or by scavenging for that which cannot be grown. And here is the basic fundamental fact, others will want what you have, and you will want what others have. In talking about these scenarios often basic principles are overlooked. Most importantly that is will be highly unlikely that anything of value will be left at the super-stores. Persons will hide the supplies away. So we must ascertain the locations of these supply caches, but how? We could do house to house searches, exposing ourselves to small arms fire. We could look for camps and appeal to their humanity (it is unlikely that they will have any humanity left at this point). Or, we can approach this situation from a guerilla warfare mindset, and take the information that we need. In order to know where the goods are you will either have to go find it yourself, or ask someone who knows, enter interrogation.
Enemy soldiers are a goldmine of information. You can learn more information in a five minute interrogation than in a week of scouting. For the purposes of this article I will speak on interrogation as related to a scenario where we are searching for supplies. But there are many other scenarios in which the need would be pressing and undeniable. One of your party’s members has been taken hostage to an unknown location, you capture an enemy scout; will you be able to educe the location of their camp from him? And in doing so save your family/friend? Your group has fallen into conflict with another group, you decide to go on the offensive, you capture one of the enemy scavengers and want to find out all the tactical details of their camp, will he break? You are alone and on the move and become engaged with small arms fire by a small group. Your superior marksmanship and cool head win the day, you kill two and wound one but are injured yourself and it looks bad, you need medical attention. The injured enemy is bleeding out and you don’t have a lot of time, you don’t know the area and need to find medical supplies, can you get him to break before he dies? The applications and need for a thorough understanding of interrogation is obvious. But the area of interrogation as a teachable science is still in its developmental stages by the US Military and Intelligence community. The average American citizen known very little about interrogation methods and most all of what he knows is learned from Hollywood or media reports; not the most reliable sources. I am in the military and have deployment experience in HUMINT operations; I am also a student of Intelligence (About to graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Intelligence Operations) and have studied every reliable source I can find. I want to be clear when I say that I am not an experienced interrogator, but rather someone who has conducted a thorough study of materials produced by experienced interrogators and am presenting my findings to yo. I will not present you with a roadmap to a successful interrogation. I won’t even concentrate on methods; you can read every book on the subject and still be less effective than someone who has conducted only one interrogation. I will simply dispel myths, and provide several proven guidelines to interrogation so that if the Schumer ever hits the fan, you will be able to develop your skills quicker. Interrogation is something that you can only learn by doing, so read this and know that while you will still be a novice, at least you will be an informed one.
The myths surrounding intelligence are so numerous that it is almost comical. Hollywood depicts interrogations that last a grand total of thirty seconds with the result of a highly indoctrinated terrorist in the corner crying while the hero is shaking hands with impressed onlookers. The media is so busy telling us that torture doesn’t work that they have managed to ignore all other methods used in interrogation. And here is food for thought, if torture doesn’t work, then why has it endured millenniums of use. You’d think if it had such a high failure rate someone would have noticed. You must approach interrogation with an open mind. Here are the best and most easily abbreviated principles. For a more thorough study, see the “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual”. [JWR Adds: “KUBARK” is an obsolete a CIA cryptonym for the agency’s own name, used in internally-published documents for purposes of deniability for interagency training, or in the event of unintended release.)
- Just ask first, you never know how unhappy he is in his current organization, you may be the answer to his prayers.
- A successful interrogation is a process, not a series of events. You can’t torture a subject then five minutes later attempt to talk him into giving up what he knows.
- You must tailor your methods to the subject, everything matters. Age, sex, ethnicity, all of these have influences that if not respected and worked around can hinder and even kill an interrogation.
- No matter who you talk to, anyone who has experience with interrogation will tell you that rapport building is the most reliable way to go. Now this doesn’t mean that you need to convince the subject that you are his best friend. But you must get him firmly rooted in a relationship of your choosing, even if he sees you as his enemy, if you can get him to respect you as an enemy then you are well on your way. The roles you can take are limited only by your imagination. But he must perceive you as being in control.
- Torture is interrogation for the unskilled. Better to break his spirit than his body. But if you must torture, don’t try to be fancy. Waterboarding and car batteries are a lot of work and you run the risk of killing him. Pliers and heated blades are classics but you have to be careful of shock and passing out. Fists are a viable option but make sure you don’t break your wrist hitting him, which would make you look ridiculous and seriously hinder your interrogation.
- He will be silent, then he will attempt to deceive, he will keep deceiving until you catch him in a lie. Then he will tell the truth.
- If he fears that you will kill him after you are done, then you may be forced to resort to physical torture. Try not to let him think about that.
- Never ever lie. He must believe that you will do the things that you threaten to do. Whether you are threatening him or promising reward.
- Fear is a product of imagination. His imagination will instill in him more fear than anything you can do. Feed that, build on it. Don’t tell him what comes next, let him fear the worst.
Keeping these tenants in mind I hope alongside you that none of us will ever be forced to resort to them. Remember that these are not rules but merely guidelines. And that nothing can take the place of experience. You may have noticed that I spend much of this article justifying the reasoning and morality of interrogation; it is because to me the biggest hurdle of interrogation wouldn’t be the interrogation itself, but convincing my group to allow it. Many people would be willing to kill but for some reason torture is completely unacceptable to them. Keep this in mind, don’t become the evil that you have set out to destroy. At all costs avoid hurting the innocent. But recognize that someday you may be forced to choose between your morals and your life, or the life of a loved one. Only you can make that decision. If you are really interested I suggest that you download a copy of the KUBARK manual, which is an interrogation manual written by an accomplished CIA interrogator in the early 1960s, before such actions were put under government oversight. The science of interrogation is still in its developmental stages, and the current engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan have provided a unique opportunity for experimentation and innovation. Expect some great products and manuals to be produced in a few years. And remember, the best skills that you can use in an interrogation are those that you use every day, the ability to read faces and emotions, the ability to relate and emphasize. Trust yourself and be willing to adapt. And good luck.
The Central Intelligence Agency and Dantalion Jones. The CIA Document of Human Manipulation: Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual. Central Intelligence Agency, Langley VA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2008.
Christopher E. Kelly: “A Taxonomy of Interrogation Methods.” dissertation., University at Albany, State University of New York, 2013
Lawrence E. Hinkle and Harold G. Wolff: The Methods of Interrogation and Indoctrination Used by the Communist State Police
National Defense Intelligence: Educing Information Interrogation: Science and Art
JWR Adds: I recommend that anyone who anticipates a societal collapse or a foreign invasion and a subsequent war of resistance should study both counterintelligence (CI) and human intelligence (HUMINT.) Though the terms are often mistakenly used almost interchangeably, CI and HUMNIT are distinct spheres. In the context of the DIA and its subordinate agencies the rule is that HUMINTers cannot do investigations and that the CI guys (“Special Agents”) cannot do interrogations. (However, CI Agents do some strategic level debriefings.) When deployed overseas, CI operations are conducted “inside the wire” while HUMINT is collected “outside of the wire.” (But raw HUMINT is then analyzed and fused behind the wire.)
Coincidentally, the protagonist in my fifth novel (“Liberators”, scheduled for released in October of 2014) is a DIA contract CI agent.