The Science of the KGB, Part II (Check out Part I)
“The Reid Technique Through My KGB Experience”
Reid Technique vs KGB interrogation techniques: how different are they?
As a primer for part III, here we look at a few key principles and the steps of the Reid technique and have my ex KGB source comment on his experience with each point. If you are under the stereotypical impression that the KGB interrogation guidelines were harsher than those used by police/detectives, take a look at what they have in common from a counterintelligence officer who has conducted nearly thirty interrogations.
Results that emerge from these points have inspired dozens of researchers over decades to examine just how productive, ethical or effective these techniques are given the frequent reoprts of false confessions, inhuman treatment and the questionable legality of such methods.
REID 1. One goal of interrogation, therefore, is to reduce perceived consequences of telling the truth. Legally, an investigator cannot reduce real consequences (offer a promise of leniency in exchange for a confession).
xKGB: Wrong. I can reduce real consequences if I’m interested in the object - he has good connections and I want to recruit him. I don’t pay attention to some details and the evidence which might send him to jail for a long time. Even if he goes to jail, it’s much better for him to go there as KGB asset.
REID 2. Consequently, one technique that should be avoided is to inform the suspect about the possible sentence facing him if he is convicted. The investigator who tells a suspect, “You’re in a lot of trouble and face the next 20 years behind bars,” has made it psychologically very difficult for the suspect to tell the truth.
xKGB: Wrong. The first question moles ask is: “How many years I’ll get? They might execute me?” You can tell him the truth but don’t put all the cards on the table (evidence).
REID 3. Another technique to reduce perceived consequences of a crime involves more active persuasion. In this instance, the suspect is told that his crime could have been much worse and that it is fortunate that the suspect did not engage in the more serious activity.
xKGB: Right. Minimize the situation. Because it makes him talk, you encourage the enemy of state to tell the truth, lying to him that for his crime, say, participation in a terror group, he might not even go to jail. “Other bastards brainwashed you, blackmailed you, threatened you, broke your will power - they will go to jail for sure. And you - you were forced to make a wrong decisions. Now it’s time to make a right decision and tell the truth about bastards who wanted to ruin your life”.
On top of it you can add a trick: “And you know what? They talk right now and they set you up saying you were the leader of the group, you pushed them to blow the bombs, understand?”
REID 4. The second principle is that every person who has committed a crime will have justified the crime in some way. A crime against a person is often justified by blaming the victim (the rape victim encouraged the sexual encounter; the robbery victim was showing off his wealth; or the murder victim got the suspect angry).Related to this principle is a concept termed forming a “victim mentality.” Criminals believe that they are the casualty of an unjust and unfair criminal justice system.
xKGB: Right. Moles usually say that they wanted to get as much intel as possible about the enemy (USA gov) and then bring the stuff to KGB. Everybody wants to minimize the guilt, of course. But you to change the object ‘s behavior right away saying that the actual situation is: you didn’t come to us - we had to stop your espionage activity and bring you here. You’ve been paid by____ for the treason, so stop the bullshit. Don’t blame the government, your boss or your family situation. Tell the truth about what you did and you’ll have much better chances at court”.
1. The direct positive confrontation. Advise the suspect that the investigation clearly indicates that he is responsible for the commission of a crime.
xKGB: Right. That’s important. The object MUST NOT DENY THE GUILT. He has to think and talk right away only about HOW TO MINIMIZE HIS GUILT. You have to get this first small, small victory right away and break his strategy. Don’t give him time to invent a new one, attack (bombard him with questions and evidence).
2. Theme development. Offer moral or psychological excuses for the suspect’s criminal behavior.
xKGB: Wrong. The suspect has to offer excuses himself and you have to either except them or not.
3-4. Statements the suspect makes during theme development. Most guilty suspects and all innocent ones will offer denials during theme development.
xKGB: Wrong. You have to close the “gate” completely at the beginning of interrogation - no denial. That’s very important - he can’t say “I didn’t do it”.
5. Тo procure the suspect’s attention to the theme. At this stage the investigator may move his chair in closer to the suspect’s. A person who is physically close to another individual is also emotionally closer to that person. The investigator may also ask hypothetical questions designed to stimulate internal thoughts from the suspect.
For the first time during the interrogation, the suspect may begin to think about telling the truth. This is termed being in a “passive mood.” The behavioral signs at this stage of an interrogation include dropped barriers (uncrossing arms or legs), a less tense posture, eye contact focused to the floor and sometimes tears.
xKGB: Right. No more pressure, you are not a friend, but you are a “good cop” who wants to understand, not to punish, and who wants to present the court with a true picture of a crime and THE SUSPECT’S PERSONALITY which is not bad, which is good because he has courage to tell the truth and start a new life.
6. Responding to the suspect’s passive mood. The investigator condenses theme concepts to one or two central elements and moves into the next step of the process designed to elicit the initial admission of guilt.
xKGB: Right. What is “central element”? Admission that he was a member of a terrorist group, because then you can open the box and get the names, facts, plans, weapons, etc. Leave admission of the object’s guilt for a desert.
7. Presenting an alternative question. Examples of an alternative question include, “Have you done this many times before or was this just the first time?” “Was this whole thing your idea or did you get talked into it?”
xKGB: Right. Same trick - help the object to minimize (not to deny!) his guilt to make him talk. My agent in the cell talks the object into admitting “one small episode and that’s it - they gonna leave you alone”. Next day I presented this “small episode” to another group member and in return he gave me everything he knew about my object. I came back, put the fact on the table: “What happened / We made a deal to be honest with each other? What are you doing? I want to help you, and now look what I got from your partner! “
8. Developing the oral confession.
xKGB: Right. Don’t smile no matter what he’s saying and don’t press - the car is going down the hill, don’t push it.
9. The oral confession is converted to a court admissible document. A confession is a statement acknowledging personal responsibility for a crime including details only the guilty person would know.
xKGB: Right. That’s the procedure. I have nothing to add.
In Part III, we discuss detailed aspects of interrogation then moving on to torture and discuss the psychological and physical effects of each of the methods used according to my source and related reserach.