Posts tagged torture

wired:

In this special WIRED edition of Science Friction, Rusty Ward breaks down the real science behind brainwashing.

Reminds me of a couple of points an x-KGB counterintelligence officer made clear to me, which differ slightly… and then expand on what Rusty says here. 

1) Relationship. The brainwashing experiment he did on me was considered “great success” when I agreed with him on simple matters, or did a very simple favor. He said that was already getting me on his side, groundwork for a relationship, changing the way I thought about communicating with the “enemy”, which to the KGB equaled a form of mind control. Brainwashing to him was more of a subtly motivated friendship, than the in your face, stereotypical threats/thought breaking/torture tactics the CIA uses. He couldn’t stress enough that when you have to get physical with the informant, you are weak, you are not a professional. Beating the mind > beating the body. 

The thing is, I considered my agreeability on simple matters a form of manipulation as well, in order to see where the line of questioning was going, what was he really after and what could I get away with, in order to estimate my behavior & his response moving forward. He strongly disagreed, which made me think this possibly hints at a cultural difference in what it meant to change someone’s way of thinking vs their behavior. In the end, if I answered the way he wanted, he called it a win. 

2) Nurturing.  Paying large sums does wonders to keep an assest coming back was also key, and he repeatedly remarked how cheap the US is with assets and that’s why our intel is balls. Constant monitoring and contact tells the assest they are free to an extent, but they are indeed on someone else’s leash, dependent on them for the small degree of freedom they will have until they are no longer of use.

3) Punishment. This isn’t to suggest that baby steps and playing house is what he’s saying works. The threat of torture or death, was always looming, as an understood consequence of the power dynamic  It felt like the mood could shift drastically and in a very bad way, if you didn’t do what they wanted. Food, sleep and drug manipulation was of course used, but again - the more you had to manipulate the mind with tools, the quality of the intel decreased. This aslo diminished your reputation and made you look incompetent. Making someone think they are doing something freely, is where it’s at, always. That was his teaching moment to me.

4) Repetition. Focusing on direct methods is the norm, but if you are doing your job, repeating efforts in indirect methods of control can lessen the work load tremendously.  With only a little more effort on the upstart reconnaissance-wise, the same thing they are threatening the asset with, they could do to their significant others to a harsher degree. Keeping tabs on family, loved ones, and mistresses was going to happen. Suddenly, it seems you really have no choice but to get along. Sustaining yourself to protect others. 

The cultural differences between brainwashing and psychological coercion may be different enough that depending on the desired outcome, the investment and long term quality of the methods used will be indicative of the short term return. Something the US has trouble demonstrating an understanding of on several levels.

Sadistic States

The interrogator is uncertain whether the detainee is knowledgeable and weak, knowledgeable and strong, or possesses no information (innocent).  The uncertainty about exactly which detainee is actually facing the interrogator is captured by the first move of the game, by nature, dividing it into three branches so that in the top branch the detainee is the weak “type” (DW), in the middle branch the detainee is the strong type (DS), and in the bottom branch the detainee is the innocent type (DZ). The interrogator’s uncertainty is captured by the common prior probability a detainee is type pw, ps, or pz, and pw + ps+ pz = 1, with the subscripts corresponding to each type.

- Interrogational Torture: Or How Good Guys Get Bad Information with Ugly Methods [via Political Research Quarterly]

Sadistic States

The interrogator is uncertain whether the detainee is knowledgeable and weak, knowledgeable and strong, or possesses no information (innocent).  The uncertainty about exactly which detainee is actually facing the interrogator is captured by the first move of the game, by nature, dividing it into three branches so that in the top branch the detainee is the weak “type” (DW), in the middle branch the detainee is the strong type (DS), and in the bottom branch the detainee is the innocent type (DZ). The interrogator’s uncertainty is captured by the common prior probability a detainee is type pw, ps, or pz, and pw + ps+ pz = 1, with the subscripts corresponding to each type.

Interrogational Torture: Or How Good Guys Get Bad Information with Ugly Methods [via Political Research Quarterly]

theconjecturer:

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan still imprison dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. As a part of their stunning mutlimedia retrospective on the Soviet Union, RFE/RL reports on the Soviet roots of such a  despicable practice.

When the KGB declares you insane. Your speaking my language with this post. So, of course I showed this to my ex-KGB counter intelligence source to get his off the cuff thoughts on this. And, as it’s becoming quiet routine with him, I get schooled and verbally paddled when it comes to thinking the psychology of the KGB is exclusive of the political environment. Honestly, I’m not sure how he puts up with me. 

PD8: What do you know about this case, or instances of KGB putting people in mental institutions to keep them silent or tucked away… until they are truly insane? 

xKGB: It’s a big question, bigger than you think. First, decent, intelligent people don’t go into politics and are not crazy about political power. Second, politics is all about economy of the country and money for political leaders. Third, both republics are just cards in a big geopolitical Russian and AMERICAN STRATEGIES - LOOK AT THE MAP. Fourth, if political opposition appears anywhere on this planet, they start looking for foreign support right away, mostry from USA (Russian opposition don’t even hide the fact that US Dept of State and different American foundations give them money.)

Now, about mental institutions: 1. Situation might be much worse- in Byelorussia, another former Soviet rep. people just disappear. 2. They don’t break your brain there - they just calm you down, mostly before and during elections. Some haloperidol, for example. It doesn’t mean that I approve this practice. And what about CIA holding suspects (“terrorists”) in secret prisons where they’ve been tortured ?

PD8: Touché.

xKGB: Any wrongful act is subject to a psychiatricanalys, arguing that under socialism there are no social causes for criminal acts.

Eskulpatsiya, is recognition of the insanity of dissidents, in one form or another expressing his disagreement with some moments of domestic and foreign policy of the Soviet government, carried out deliberately. For this purpose, mainly for psychiatric diagnosis: creeping form of schizophrenia  and paranoid personality development.

If and when I pursue this line, I’m certain for another stern “sit down”. Wish me luck!
Interrogations and Tortures, Part III
In 2002, the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah was the “test case for new methods of interrogation that would eventually become an international controversy — methods that would come to be known as “enhanced interrogation techniques”.  Such acts such as sleep deprivation, placing the object nude in a cold room, dumping cold water on him regularly, loud music are considered enhanced interrogation techniques. Later permission was given to use slapping, shoving, stress positions and confined in boxes with insects.”  Via
When we continued our conversation regarding interrogations, my ex-KGB source tells me that “In 1942 German psychiatrists suggested to SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler that: “Officers and soldiers of the German army shouldn’t execute, torture or watch these special actions, because they risk the mental health of their future kids”. A very useful tip which Himmler immediately turned into an order for SS Einsatzgruppen (killing squads) - since then, Germans used local police for these jobs.”  The idea is that even being present during these acts, experiencing the moment of inflicting, observing such severe, violent trauma is in effect, somehow translated from perception/experience to a possible genetic predisposition towards PTSD.
It seems to be a calculated and deliberate balance of knowing what do to, how much and when, that separates interrogation from torture, which is a significant topic of debate and concern given the delicate line between the two. My source explains torture as “a category of methods of interrogation designed to shock, hurt and humiliate the object and get information or to make him do something (if used for blackmail).” There are different types of torture and professionals often combine them depending on the object. Several issues that the interrogators keep in mind while looking for indicators of potential problems are:
Ongoing torture decreases pain sensitivity 
People with strong will power take torture as a test 
Resistance to torture is often a form of hysterics after arrest 
The object could take himself as a martyr if you torture him too much 
Too harsh of a torture could damage object’s psyche and you won’t be able to work with him. He adds, “That’s why we keep terrorists/informants in Guantanamo Bay without trial – we turn them into idiots.” 
PD8: Just to clarify, are you saying the torture used to against detainees to gain information deteriorates their competency to stand trail?
xKGB: 100 %. 
PD8: It seems counterintuitive and contrary to the cases of false confessions and the research we hear about to trust the information received during such a traumatic process that is diminishing their cognitive capacity, memory and causing stress, leading to a possible false confession or untrue information.
 xKGB:  That’s natural – you expect the enemy to lie to you because he’s the actual enemy. People usually trust “after torture information” more than voluntary confessions. 
You can tell that a certain method was effective if the information was the truth. Say, if the guy after torture said “2345 23 Ave is the terrorists warehouse”, you came there, you ambushed the place and got the terrorists – the method was effective.
PD8: Still seems to leave room for unnecessary violence, pain and error, did it actually work most times in order for it to be used so much? Is this a real life vs experimental scenario?  We will get into this more later. How was interrogating moles or other highly trained officials who were trained as you were and knew what to expect? 
xKGB: Yes, it worked or we wouldn’t have used it. it was extremely difficult. You must have a very strong case. Besides, after USSR collapsed, they don’t execute “moles” in Russia any more.
PD8: In your experience, what are the types of techniques of psychological torture were used?- fake execution (waterboarding, Russian Roulette)- complete isolation (“wall therapy”) 
-        Music box (playing loud, annoying music, an anxiety inducing technique)- daylight deprivation - forcible narcotics addiction. Here you can use also depressants, stimulants, opiates or hallucinogens (psychodelics), depressants (alcohol, barbiturates, antianxiety drugs  with effects of euphoria, tension reduction, disinhibition, muscle relaxation, drowsiness; stimulants (cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine (crystal meth).
-        Food deprivation- euphoria, exhilaration, high physical and mental energy, reduced appetite, perceptions of power , and sociability; hallucinogens with effects of euphoria, hallucinations, distorted perceptions and  sensations -making the object observe others being tortured (such as family members) -abuse of object’s national, religious feelings or political views) 
PD8: How did you feel being a part of this? Are you susceptible to mental health issues due to your exposure to such emotionally heightening situations?
xKGB: It’s just job. Professional does his job. As for me…
PD8: Ah, we can keep the rest off the record for now. What are the effects of psychological torture you have seen?
xKGB: Anxiety, depression, fear, psychosis, difficulty concentrating, communication disabilities, insomnia, impaired memory, headaches, hallucinations, sexual disturbances, destruction of self-image and inability to socialize.
PD8: What are the techniques of physical torture were you trained to exercise?
xKGB:
Food, water, sleep deprivation 
damage to vital body organs (brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, private parts) plus electric shock. The brain is particularly dependent on a continuous and stable supply of oxygen and glucose. 
rape by a fellow prisoner
face deformation 
water cure (the torturer pours water down the throat of the subject to inflict the terror of drowning. In another variation, the subject is tied or held don in a chair, his face is covered with a cloth or plastic sheet, and water is poured slowly or   quickly over his face to encourage him to talk.
 
PD8: What about genital mutilation?
xKGB: It all depends on the situation. If it’s a war and intel/sabotage team and they have the enemy officer, they have to get intel from him fast and kill him after that. Again, if you got a terrorist with a bomb, and you have no idea who he is and whether his partners a mile away are preparing to blow up a building tomorrow morning, you have to torture. But if it’s an Al Qaida guy and you torture him because you have no sources inside major terror organization, you better find another job. You are not professional, you are garbage.
PD8: I’ll take that as a yes.  What are the effects of physical torture?
xKGB: Extreme, unbearable pain, hypertension, fatigue, cardiopulmonary (and other disorders) as well as brain atrophy.
PD8:   Did it ever go too far too soon? Killing the object before info was obtained?
xKGB: You can’t kill the object before – why should you ? It’s different if you have three terrorists and you torture and kill one of them in front of others just to show what you gonna do to them. Often people take “light death” (torture) as a reward.
PD8: What happened to them after an interrogation? Prison?
xKGB: Again, it depends what you have. If it’s an enemy of state and he was involved in serious stuff like coup-d-eta, murders, etc, it’s prison. But if you recruit him during interrogation (it happens sometimes) his life in prison will be different. Then, if it’s a minor stuff, like talking about the possibility to, say, kill the President, the guy has to sign the paper, promise he won’t do it again and he’s free . Of course, in this particular case he’ll be under surveillance and surrounded by assets for life.
PD8: Can you tell me about any interrogations you were involved in?
xKGB: The objects were mostly enemies of state, anti-Soviets, anti-Communists, radical nationalists. You can interrogate them only if you have strong evidence. But they are mostly intelligent people and in the cell they might be pressed by my assets – beaten up, raped – “Get the money or we gonna do this every night!” After that, interrogation is much easier.
In other words: 
Those cells are named “press-khata.” Pressure is usually: menaces, advices to confess, vicious promises to kill you when you are asleep, etc. Strong person will stand up anyway, after few days then, you will be let alone and transferred from a press-khata to usual cell. via
PD8:  How about any torture session that stands out in your experience?
xKGB: Sleep deprivation + “good cop - bad cop” trick for 1-2 days, ‘Conveyor”.
There’s a good and simple one – put pens between your left hand fingers and squeeze them with you right hand. How you feel?
PD8: Not cool.
—-
We still have more to talk about. Stay tuned for the next topic: Coercive Persuasion AKA, Brainwashing.
PART ONE, PART TWO OF THE KGB SERIES.
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Interrogations and Tortures, Part III

In 2002, the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah was the “test case for new methods of interrogation that would eventually become an international controversy — methods that would come to be known as “enhanced interrogation techniques”.  Such acts such as sleep deprivation, placing the object nude in a cold room, dumping cold water on him regularly, loud music are considered enhanced interrogation techniques. Later permission was given to use slapping, shoving, stress positions and confined in boxes with insects.”  Via

When we continued our conversation regarding interrogations, my ex-KGB source tells me that “In 1942 German psychiatrists suggested to SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler that: “Officers and soldiers of the German army shouldn’t execute, torture or watch these special actions, because they risk the mental health of their future kids”. A very useful tip which Himmler immediately turned into an order for SS Einsatzgruppen (killing squads) - since then, Germans used local police for these jobs.”  The idea is that even being present during these acts, experiencing the moment of inflicting, observing such severe, violent trauma is in effect, somehow translated from perception/experience to a possible genetic predisposition towards PTSD.

It seems to be a calculated and deliberate balance of knowing what do to, how much and when, that separates interrogation from torture, which is a significant topic of debate and concern given the delicate line between the two. My source explains torture as “a category of methods of interrogation designed to shock, hurt and humiliate the object and get information or to make him do something (if used for blackmail).” There are different types of torture and professionals often combine them depending on the object. Several issues that the interrogators keep in mind while looking for indicators of potential problems are:

  • Ongoing torture decreases pain sensitivity 
  • People with strong will power take torture as a test 
  • Resistance to torture is often a form of hysterics after arrest 
  • The object could take himself as a martyr if you torture him too much 
  • Too harsh of a torture could damage object’s psyche and you won’t be able to work with him. He adds, “That’s why we keep terrorists/informants in Guantanamo Bay without trial – we turn them into idiots.” 

PD8: Just to clarify, are you saying the torture used to against detainees to gain information deteriorates their competency to stand trail?

xKGB: 100 %. 

PD8: It seems counterintuitive and contrary to the cases of false confessions and the research we hear about to trust the information received during such a traumatic process that is diminishing their cognitive capacity, memory and causing stress, leading to a possible false confession or untrue information.

 xKGB:  That’s natural – you expect the enemy to lie to you because he’s the actual enemy. People usually trust “after torture information” more than voluntary confessions

You can tell that a certain method was effective if the information was the truth. Say, if the guy after torture said “2345 23 Ave is the terrorists warehouse”, you came there, you ambushed the place and got the terrorists – the method was effective.

PD8: Still seems to leave room for unnecessary violence, pain and error, did it actually work most times in order for it to be used so much? Is this a real life vs experimental scenario?  We will get into this more later. How was interrogating moles or other highly trained officials who were trained as you were and knew what to expect

xKGB: Yes, it worked or we wouldn’t have used it. it was extremely difficult. You must have a very strong case. Besides, after USSR collapsed, they don’t execute “moles” in Russia any more.

PD8: In your experience, what are the types of techniques of psychological torture were used?
- fake execution (waterboarding, Russian Roulette)
- complete isolation (“wall therapy”) 

-        Music box (playing loud, annoying music, an anxiety inducing technique)
- daylight deprivation 
- forcible narcotics addiction. Here you can use also depressants, stimulants, opiates or hallucinogens (psychodelics), depressants (alcohol, barbiturates, antianxiety drugs 
 with effects of euphoria, tension reduction, disinhibition, muscle relaxation, drowsiness; stimulants (cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine (crystal meth).

-        Food deprivation
- euphoria, exhilaration, high physical and mental energy, reduced appetite, perceptions of power , and sociability; hallucinogens with effects of euphoria, hallucinations, distorted perceptions and  sensations 
-making the object observe others being tortured (such as family members) 
-abuse of object’s national, religious feelings or political views) 

PD8: How did you feel being a part of this? Are you susceptible to mental health issues due to your exposure to such emotionally heightening situations?

xKGB: It’s just job. Professional does his job. As for me…

PD8: Ah, we can keep the rest off the record for now. What are the effects of psychological torture you have seen?

xKGB: Anxiety, depression, fear, psychosis, difficulty concentrating, communication disabilities, insomnia, impaired memory, headaches, hallucinations, sexual disturbances, destruction of self-image and inability to socialize.

PD8: What are the techniques of physical torture were you trained to exercise?

xKGB:

  • Food, water, sleep deprivation 
  • damage to vital body organs (brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, private parts) plus electric shock. The brain is particularly dependent on a continuous and stable supply of oxygen and glucose. 
  • rape by a fellow prisoner
  • face deformation 
  • water cure (the torturer pours water down the throat of the subject to inflict the terror of drowning. In another variation, the subject is tied or held don in a chair, his face is covered with a cloth or plastic sheet, and water is poured slowly or   quickly over his face to encourage him to talk.

 

PD8: What about genital mutilation?

xKGB: It all depends on the situation. If it’s a war and intel/sabotage team and they have the enemy officer, they have to get intel from him fast and kill him after that. Again, if you got a terrorist with a bomb, and you have no idea who he is and whether his partners a mile away are preparing to blow up a building tomorrow morning, you have to torture. But if it’s an Al Qaida guy and you torture him because you have no sources inside major terror organization, you better find another job. You are not professional, you are garbage.

PD8: I’ll take that as a yes.  What are the effects of physical torture?

xKGB: Extreme, unbearable pain, hypertension, fatigue, cardiopulmonary (and other disorders) as well as brain atrophy.

PD8:   Did it ever go too far too soon? Killing the object before info was obtained?

xKGB: You can’t kill the object before – why should you ? It’s different if you have three terrorists and you torture and kill one of them in front of others just to show what you gonna do to them. Often people take “light death” (torture) as a reward.

PD8: What happened to them after an interrogation? Prison?

xKGB: Again, it depends what you have. If it’s an enemy of state and he was involved in serious stuff like coup-d-eta, murders, etc, it’s prison. But if you recruit him during interrogation (it happens sometimes) his life in prison will be different. Then, if it’s a minor stuff, like talking about the possibility to, say, kill the President, the guy has to sign the paper, promise he won’t do it again and he’s free . Of course, in this particular case he’ll be under surveillance and surrounded by assets for life.

PD8: Can you tell me about any interrogations you were involved in?

xKGB: The objects were mostly enemies of state, anti-Soviets, anti-Communists, radical nationalists. You can interrogate them only if you have strong evidence. But they are mostly intelligent people and in the cell they might be pressed by my assets – beaten up, raped – “Get the money or we gonna do this every night!” After that, interrogation is much easier.

In other words: 

Those cells are named “press-khata.” Pressure is usually: menaces, advices to confess, vicious promises to kill you when you are asleep, etc. Strong person will stand up anyway, after few days then, you will be let alone and transferred from a press-khata to usual cell. via

PD8:  How about any torture session that stands out in your experience?

xKGB: Sleep deprivation + “good cop - bad cop” trick for 1-2 days, ‘Conveyor”.

There’s a good and simple one – put pens between your left hand fingers and squeeze them with you right hand. How you feel?

PD8: Not cool.

—-

We still have more to talk about. Stay tuned for the next topic: Coercive Persuasion AKA, Brainwashing.

PART ONE, PART TWO OF THE KGB SERIES.

image

Is it not telling, for example, that the party that tells us that America is exceptional is also the party that endorses torture but will not call it by its proper name? And the logic is very tight: because America is morally superior, it can act in ways others morally and legally cannot, and when Americans torture, it is not torture, precisely and only because Americans are doing it. It’s the kind of perfect self-justification one finds among some of the more self-righteous “born-again”, a hermetically sealed circle of self-love, designed not to expose and root out sin, but to reaffirm self-worth regardless. It’s a very modern form of solipsism, the kind of thing conservatives would usually condemn if told to a child as a way to build his or her self-esteem. But that’s how they see Americans, as children, whose memories evaporate instantly, who are only beguiled by the cliches of lost eras, who need to be told repeatedly, even as they slip behind, that they are still the best. And not just the best. But the Best Ever!

— Andrew Sullivan via aatombomb: Simply the BEST

I’ll be posting the third installment of the ex KGB interview  shortly, where we continue with interrogation, begin with torture and start the BRAINWASHING…as ya do. 

 
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”.
The Interrogation
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. 

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”.

The Interrogation

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. 

scienceofthekgb:

So you want you to experience what it’s like to be interrogated/tourtured by a Soviet KBG officer in 1984?  Well, there’s a “theme park” for that.
You can go for a 3 hour tour in an underground 2 level bunker where you’re transported back in time to be yelled at, hit and pushed around in a “quasi-theatrical experience in a genuine Soviet bunker in the middle of the Lithuanian forest; imagine Punchdrunk Theatre Company run by retired KGB officers.” Basically,it’s where history comes alive and scares the shit out of you.

 ”Someone always faints – our record is five people fainting in one show,” she explained matter-of-factly, re-assuring me that my translator will have smelling salts handy. “But be sure to answer the guards’ questions promptly and clearly. They are mostly actors, but they can get stuck in that time and forget they are actors. We had to fire some of them because they were a little too hard on people. It’s very easy to break people’s will – once you are down there, six metres underground, you feel like you can’t get out.”  VIA


Finishing up part II of the interviews with my ex KGB source re: interrogations and tortures, I came across this lil nugget. (Part I here)

scienceofthekgb:

So you want you to experience what it’s like to be interrogated/tourtured by a Soviet KBG officer in 1984?  Well, there’s a “theme park” for that.

You can go for a 3 hour tour in an underground 2 level bunker where you’re transported back in time to be yelled at, hit and pushed around in a “quasi-theatrical experience in a genuine Soviet bunker in the middle of the Lithuanian forest; imagine Punchdrunk Theatre Company run by retired KGB officers.” Basically,it’s where history comes alive and scares the shit out of you.

 ”Someone always faints – our record is five people fainting in one show,” she explained matter-of-factly, re-assuring me that my translator will have smelling salts handy. “But be sure to answer the guards’ questions promptly and clearly. They are mostly actors, but they can get stuck in that time and forget they are actors. We had to fire some of them because they were a little too hard on people. It’s very easy to break people’s will – once you are down there, six metres underground, you feel like you can’t get out.”  VIA

Finishing up part II of the interviews with my ex KGB source re: interrogations and tortures, I came across this lil nugget. (Part I here)

3rdofmay:

The art: Leon Golub, Interrogation I, 1981.
The news: “Crazy Talk on Torture? Blame Obama,” by Andrew Cohen for TheAtlantic.com.
The source: Collection of The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica, Calif.

Relevant to my upcoming post on Interrogation and Torture, Part II -where my ex KGB source and I continue our discussion on torture methods and results.

3rdofmay:

The art: Leon Golub, Interrogation I, 1981.

The news: “Crazy Talk on Torture? Blame Obama,” by Andrew Cohen for TheAtlantic.com.

The source: Collection of The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica, Calif.

Relevant to my upcoming post on Interrogation and Torture, Part II -where my ex KGB source and I continue our discussion on torture methods and results.

scienceofthekgb:

INTRO, Interrogation and Tortures (Part II here)
In psychology, the term ‘interrogation’ is often fraught with negative notions like fear, mistrust and some cases, it’s a slippery slope to torture. In a similar vein, the western concept of the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, Russia’s national security agency from 1954-1991) shares many of the same notions. 
Studies surrounding interrogations have been telling us for decades about the dangerous perils of psychological coercion that elicit false confessions, yet our legal system allows for trickery, lies and various environmental manipulations to be used at the cost of persecuting the innocent, diminishing the integrity of the system and challenging of our understanding of human and victim rights. The common thought is the more pressure applied, the sooner the object (person of interest) will break and reveal truthful information leading to either a conviction or valuable intel, in spite of what experts in false confessions like Saul Kassin, have been telling us for years. Nonetheless, along with assets and intelligence work (surveillance), it remains that one of the most important aspects of espionage and information gathering from local levels up to national security.  
 In 2005, ABC News reported that:

Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and a deputy director of the State Department’s office of counterterrorism, recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust … than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets.” via

My source, for the purpose of this series, a former KGB operative specializing in espionage, counterintelligence, a trained sniper (no less), would vehemently disagree and take insult with the above quote, since by his accounts it’s backwards. With over 30 years experience in KGB, he presents himself as someone well versed in the art of recruitment of assets (trusted informants recruited operatives), interrogation and will not hesitate to inform you he was “the best KGB sources and never made a single mistake”.  His view of how the US conducts its intelligence gathering and maintains national security are as you might expect, strongly negative and borderline arrogant, until you realize he possesses highly specialized training with a rare background that qualifies at an expert level to allow such bold assessments and he knows the strategies to back it up. When the question of how to trust this individual arises, rather than incessantly inculcate his background, papers or credentials; we must remember this quote when speaking about Russia or KGB business.

The SVR looms and operates from a headquarters outside (and presumably above, elevation-wise) Moscow via 
Over an extensive period of emails, phone calls and meetings on crowded New York City streets, he candidly shared his life story: childhood to adult, education and training, professional and some very personal.  He applies observational methods, uses simple pattern spotting, psychological strategies, brainwashing and concepts of triangulation thereby constructing a perception of current/future events which range interesting at the least, and frightening if true. Events that he will discuss may sound preposterous and warrant a reminder that although to westerners, the memory of the KGB secret police is filled with corruption, lies, spies, threats, power and killing… and although the KGB still basically exists in the form of the SVR (with the FSB as the counterespionage agency) my contact considers himself a professional living in the U.S. under political asylum, since returning to Russia or the Ukraine would be certain death. And perhaps he isn’t safe here either. To this end, he is eager to share his knowledge and very interested in comparing his experience and learned psychological techniques of the last 3 decades to the accepted science of today. The idea going forward is to share his background, his knowledge and to strain his education and field experience in the KGB though a psychological screen to understand the methods used then and what that can tell us about the methods used now in similar situations. This is then, a case study of real-life field experience vs scientific or lab research on topics such as interrogation, torture, behavior modification, brain washing and more. 
We begin with the topic of interrogation moving towards torture.   I am told of nearly 3 dozen accounts of interrogations at KGB district field offices, that doesn’t meet the fast, furious wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am that Hollywood has us believe, nor entirely representative of the graphic Guantanamo images, but rather a long thorough investigation-operation which includes information gathering on the subject which could take months or years, “cooking” the subject (letting him wait, increasing anxiety), building a rapport, using incentives then, if needed using tricks or blackmail, threats of physical violence or rape if in a jail. He stressed that gathering as much info as you can on the subject and rapport building are key techniques, it gardens larger amounts and accurate information. If you have to use more drastic methods or torture- perhaps your intel was not good enough. Once you have the object, there are several techniques that are designed to encourage dialogue:
good cop / bad cop
 “story under a story” (after intense interrogation the object tells a different story — which is not true, either)
 bombing with questions
 pressure by not interrogating
“silence makes your situation worse” trick
 “admit one small episode and that’s it” trick
 “I help you - you help me” trick
 “shift” meaning try to shift the blame away from the suspect to some other person or set of circumstances that prompted the subject to commit the crime. That is, develop themes containing reasons that will justify or excuse the crime. Themes may be developed or changed to find one to which the accused is most responsive.
Many of these methods mirror the trickery used in the US system that have helped make research claims of unaccountably, misconduct very credible. However, my contact insists simply that if they did not work, they would not be used while maintaining that the intelligence gathered before hand is the main aspect from which all other activities are measured.
PD8:  In doing over 30 interrogations, what was the most effective method you found in getting reliable, accurate information? 
xKGB: The “Breaking” method. The most important thing is to make the object talk by telling him that you want to just to understand what happened and “we, together, may find the way to deal somehow with the situation which “is not very bad right now”. The object, of course, will lie to you, but it doesn’t matter - he’s talking, he “swallowed the bait”. You listen to him, you write down everything and then you break his story into episodes. Then you start interrogating him on each episode but in chaotic order, like episode #1, then #5, then the last one, #4, etc. It’s pretty hard for the object keep logical lying if you act like this - he’ll change his story and put some true details to make it real. Extract those details and help him to tell the truth around them. 
He states that every object has a breaking point and there are some indicators that the object is near his breaking point or has already reached it, i.e. leans forward and his facial expression indicates an interest in the proposal or is more hesitant in his argument, he is probably nearing the breaking point.
PD8: If several methods of interrogation were used, are they used in a specific order to increase the pressure to talk, or was it dependant on the object’s demeanor/personality or urgency of obtaining the info? 
xKGB: Let me tell you most important thing about interrogations, tortures. If you deal with a “lonely wolf” (self-made terrorist) who won’t talk, you have no choice but to torture him to get info on his possible connections, place where he’s keeping guns or explosives, etc. But if you interrogate a member of organization, you MUST HAVE ASSETS INSIDE THIS ORGANIZATION and you don’t have to torture anybody. 
National security isn’t CIA and FBI #1 priority, that’s why they mostly wait for walk-in recruits, I call it a “Newton Syndrome” (referencing a falling apple in your lap). 
PD8: How long would a general interrogation last compared before possibly evolving into a torture session? 
xKGB: If it’s a lonely “wolf” and he’s very aggressive, refuses to talk, and you know he has connections, you start tortures right away. If it’s organization member and you have no assets inside organization, leave him alone and resign next morning, like an idiot. 
PD8: How often would the interrogation warrant moving to torture type procedures?
xKGB: It’s impossible to determine, it depends how professional you are, how you use methods and tricks, how fast you can establish rapport.
PD8:  Regarding the Reid interrogation technique and issues eliciting false confessions from accused offenders using minimization and maximization tricks; in your experience has any unreliable/untrue info ever elicited from interrogation? How about torture? What do you attribute that to?
xKGB: The thing is, if you deal with a professional, he usually has “a story under the story” which he offers you as true after intensive interrogation and tortures (people tend to believe info they get after torturing the object). But he can’t lie to me if I have enough intel on, say, his organization. That’s very important - how well are you prepared for interrogation? What is professional factual analysis? It the longest list of questions you have to answer before you interrogate.
PD8: When you detect that the object’s will has broken in an interrogation, what is the first question you ask?
xKGB: Nothing. Do not rush the object, do not humiliate him to show you’re ,finally, a winner and he’s the loser - he’s gonna close up. Just keep on developing the talk, don’t jump out of your chair and be quiet. It’s like a poker.
PD8: How did you confirm the information they provided as true, before moving on it?
xKGB: It depends if you have other sources, other facts, documents and how fast you can check up the information.
PD8: What is training like, or the schooling you were expedited through? (for example, the CIA interviews candidates in multiple rounds and does psychological and physical tests.)
xKGB: CIA are idiots.  KGB hires people in 2 ways: a) Human Resources division b) field offices. When KGB officer has a candidate, he’s checking his biography, relatives, his life, habits, connections, etc. It’s very good if candidate is or was an agent (asset). Then the officer makes an offer and the candidate goes through a whole row of doctors at KGB clinic. If health is OK, biography is OK, he’s in. Psychological tests?…KGB was playing this game couple of years early 80’s and then it appeared tests had nothing to do with the ability to recruit and work with agents. My best friend was the best of the best after “psychological tests”, he joined KGB and left in one month - couldn’t work with traitors, too dirty for him.  No physical tests - for what? KGB officers don’t run marathons. Training is Counterintelligence School or Intelligence Academy.
PD8: What was the interrogation process like, emotionally?
xKGB: Just a job, not fun. “No mercy, no ideology, no emotions.”
Recent law review articles have discussed the “psychological difficulty of distinguishing between torture and enhanced interrogation” for purposes of law and policy. There isn’t even a clear definition. The argument is that the “torture standard is unreliable because of the marked variation in the manner in which different jurisdictions interpret and employ it”. They also use psychological research to demonstrate the standard’s invalidity as well as “identify the existence of two separate psychological biases that impede objective application of the torture standard” via

Emboldened by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the George W. Bush administration lost no time establishing a policy that authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” that is, torture and abuse.

Next up:  From Interrogation to Tortures

scienceofthekgb:

INTRO, Interrogation and Tortures (Part II here)

In psychology, the term ‘interrogation’ is often fraught with negative notions like fear, mistrust and some cases, it’s a slippery slope to torture. In a similar vein, the western concept of the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, Russia’s national security agency from 1954-1991) shares many of the same notions.

Studies surrounding interrogations have been telling us for decades about the dangerous perils of psychological coercion that elicit false confessions, yet our legal system allows for trickery, lies and various environmental manipulations to be used at the cost of persecuting the innocent, diminishing the integrity of the system and challenging of our understanding of human and victim rights. The common thought is the more pressure applied, the sooner the object (person of interest) will break and reveal truthful information leading to either a conviction or valuable intel, in spite of what experts in false confessions like Saul Kassin, have been telling us for years. Nonetheless, along with assets and intelligence work (surveillance), it remains that one of the most important aspects of espionage and information gathering from local levels up to national security.  

 In 2005, ABC News reported that:

Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and a deputy director of the State Department’s office of counterterrorism, recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust … than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets.” via

My source, for the purpose of this series, a former KGB operative specializing in espionage, counterintelligence, a trained sniper (no less), would vehemently disagree and take insult with the above quote, since by his accounts it’s backwards. With over 30 years experience in KGB, he presents himself as someone well versed in the art of recruitment of assets (trusted informants recruited operatives), interrogation and will not hesitate to inform you he was “the best KGB sources and never made a single mistake”.  His view of how the US conducts its intelligence gathering and maintains national security are as you might expect, strongly negative and borderline arrogant, until you realize he possesses highly specialized training with a rare background that qualifies at an expert level to allow such bold assessments and he knows the strategies to back it up. When the question of how to trust this individual arises, rather than incessantly inculcate his background, papers or credentials; we must remember this quote when speaking about Russia or KGB business.

The SVR looms and operates from a headquarters outside (and presumably above, elevation-wise) Moscow via 

Over an extensive period of emails, phone calls and meetings on crowded New York City streets, he candidly shared his life story: childhood to adult, education and training, professional and some very personal.  He applies observational methods, uses simple pattern spotting, psychological strategies, brainwashing and concepts of triangulation thereby constructing a perception of current/future events which range interesting at the least, and frightening if true. Events that he will discuss may sound preposterous and warrant a reminder that although to westerners, the memory of the KGB secret police is filled with corruption, lies, spies, threats, power and killing… and although the KGB still basically exists in the form of the SVR (with the FSB as the counterespionage agency) my contact considers himself a professional living in the U.S. under political asylum, since returning to Russia or the Ukraine would be certain death. And perhaps he isn’t safe here either. To this end, he is eager to share his knowledge and very interested in comparing his experience and learned psychological techniques of the last 3 decades to the accepted science of today. The idea going forward is to share his background, his knowledge and to strain his education and field experience in the KGB though a psychological screen to understand the methods used then and what that can tell us about the methods used now in similar situations. This is then, a case study of real-life field experience vs scientific or lab research on topics such as interrogation, torture, behavior modification, brain washing and more. 

We begin with the topic of interrogation moving towards torture.   I am told of nearly 3 dozen accounts of interrogations at KGB district field offices, that doesn’t meet the fast, furious wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am that Hollywood has us believe, nor entirely representative of the graphic Guantanamo images, but rather a long thorough investigation-operation which includes information gathering on the subject which could take months or years, “cooking” the subject (letting him wait, increasing anxiety), building a rapport, using incentives then, if needed using tricks or blackmail, threats of physical violence or rape if in a jail. He stressed that gathering as much info as you can on the subject and rapport building are key techniques, it gardens larger amounts and accurate information. If you have to use more drastic methods or torture- perhaps your intel was not good enough. Once you have the object, there are several techniques that are designed to encourage dialogue:

  • good cop / bad cop
  •  “story under a story” (after intense interrogation the object tells a different story — which is not true, either)
  •  bombing with questions
  •  pressure by not interrogating
  • “silence makes your situation worse” trick
  •  “admit one small episode and that’s it” trick
  •  “I help you - you help me” trick
  •  “shift” meaning try to shift the blame away from the suspect to some other person or set of circumstances that prompted the subject to commit the crime. That is, develop themes containing reasons that will justify or excuse the crime. Themes may be developed or changed to find one to which the accused is most responsive.

Many of these methods mirror the trickery used in the US system that have helped make research claims of unaccountably, misconduct very credible. However, my contact insists simply that if they did not work, they would not be used while maintaining that the intelligence gathered before hand is the main aspect from which all other activities are measured.

PD8:  In doing over 30 interrogations, what was the most effective method you found in getting reliable, accurate information? 

xKGB: The “Breaking” method. The most important thing is to make the object talk by telling him that you want to just to understand what happened and “we, together, may find the way to deal somehow with the situation which “is not very bad right now”. The object, of course, will lie to you, but it doesn’t matter - he’s talking, he “swallowed the bait”. You listen to him, you write down everything and then you break his story into episodes. Then you start interrogating him on each episode but in chaotic order, like episode #1, then #5, then the last one, #4, etc. It’s pretty hard for the object keep logical lying if you act like this - he’ll change his story and put some true details to make it real. Extract those details and help him to tell the truth around them. 

He states that every object has a breaking point and there are some indicators that the object is near his breaking point or has already reached it, i.e. leans forward and his facial expression indicates an interest in the proposal or is more hesitant in his argument, he is probably nearing the breaking point.

PD8: If several methods of interrogation were used, are they used in a specific order to increase the pressure to talk, or was it dependant on the object’s demeanor/personality or urgency of obtaining the info? 

xKGB: Let me tell you most important thing about interrogations, tortures. If you deal with a “lonely wolf” (self-made terrorist) who won’t talk, you have no choice but to torture him to get info on his possible connections, place where he’s keeping guns or explosives, etc. But if you interrogate a member of organization, you MUST HAVE ASSETS INSIDE THIS ORGANIZATION and you don’t have to torture anybody. 

National security isn’t CIA and FBI #1 priority, that’s why they mostly wait for walk-in recruits, I call it a “Newton Syndrome” (referencing a falling apple in your lap). 

PD8: How long would a general interrogation last compared before possibly evolving into a torture session? 

xKGB: If it’s a lonely “wolf” and he’s very aggressive, refuses to talk, and you know he has connections, you start tortures right away. If it’s organization member and you have no assets inside organization, leave him alone and resign next morning, like an idiot. 

PD8: How often would the interrogation warrant moving to torture type procedures?

xKGB: It’s impossible to determine, it depends how professional you are, how you use methods and tricks, how fast you can establish rapport.

PD8:  Regarding the Reid interrogation technique and issues eliciting false confessions from accused offenders using minimization and maximization tricks; in your experience has any unreliable/untrue info ever elicited from interrogation? How about torture? What do you attribute that to?

xKGB: The thing is, if you deal with a professional, he usually has “a story under the story” which he offers you as true after intensive interrogation and tortures (people tend to believe info they get after torturing the object). But he can’t lie to me if I have enough intel on, say, his organization. That’s very important - how well are you prepared for interrogation? What is professional factual analysis? It the longest list of questions you have to answer before you interrogate.

PD8: When you detect that the object’s will has broken in an interrogation, what is the first question you ask?

xKGB: Nothing. Do not rush the object, do not humiliate him to show you’re ,finally, a winner and he’s the loser - he’s gonna close up. Just keep on developing the talk, don’t jump out of your chair and be quiet. It’s like a poker.

PD8: How did you confirm the information they provided as true, before moving on it?

xKGB: It depends if you have other sources, other facts, documents and how fast you can check up the information.

PD8: What is training like, or the schooling you were expedited through? (for example, the CIA interviews candidates in multiple rounds and does psychological and physical tests.)

xKGB: CIA are idiots.  KGB hires people in 2 ways: a) Human Resources division b) field offices. When KGB officer has a candidate, he’s checking his biography, relatives, his life, habits, connections, etc. It’s very good if candidate is or was an agent (asset). Then the officer makes an offer and the candidate goes through a whole row of doctors at KGB clinic. If health is OK, biography is OK, he’s in. Psychological tests?…KGB was playing this game couple of years early 80’s and then it appeared tests had nothing to do with the ability to recruit and work with agents. My best friend was the best of the best after “psychological tests”, he joined KGB and left in one month - couldn’t work with traitors, too dirty for him.  No physical tests - for what? KGB officers don’t run marathons. Training is Counterintelligence School or Intelligence Academy.

PD8: What was the interrogation process like, emotionally?

xKGB: Just a job, not fun. “No mercy, no ideology, no emotions.”

Recent law review articles have discussed the “psychological difficulty of distinguishing between torture and enhanced interrogation” for purposes of law and policy. There isn’t even a clear definition. The argument is that the “torture standard is unreliable because of the marked variation in the manner in which different jurisdictions interpret and employ it”. They also use psychological research to demonstrate the standard’s invalidity as well as “identify the existence of two separate psychological biases that impede objective application of the torture standard” via

Emboldened by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the George W. Bush administration lost no time establishing a policy that authorized the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” that is, torture and abuse.

Next up:  From Interrogation to Tortures

IT’S OFFICIAL

I’ll be returning to my classic forensic psych roots for a bit.  In the coming weeks, I’m going to sit down with a former KGB operative in a five part miniseries.

We will be discussing his work in Russia as well as in the U.S. from a psychological and political perspective, highlighting behavioral tactics used in espionage, recruitment, profiling, behavioral & arms training, intelligence, interrogations, torture - and his current opinions of what is happening in the US today.

Going beyond the text book psychological studies, past the conspiracy theories or what we consider to be sensational or immoral, I believe this man has a story that needs to be told. A story that at the end, we can all relate to. 

thoughtexploratorium:

In 2008, famed psychologist Philip Zimbardo took the stage at TED and covered both his Stanford prison experiment and the Milgram experiment, and related both to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. He’s been calling it the Lucifer Effect, where situational conditions can turn otherwise good people into what are effectively evil people.

To some of you this is old hat, but perhaps a good quick summary. There are two newer points he makes. First, his current efforts are about using this knowledge to create everyday heroes. He glosses over this, which sounds interesting, but for some reason slightly less interesting than his previous work.

The second thing he talks about that I don’t remember him talking about before are that those situations which can lead to people doing bad things are not the final culprit. It’s not about some emergent situation that nobody is responsible for. He talked about the systemic level of the people that intentionally or unintentionally designed the system that allow those situations to happen. 

Obviously all riveting. Even though people hear about this and are fascinated, many still don’t get it. Of course, the systems world is quite familiar with all this. Ackoff talks about Singer’s alternative model to cause-and-effect called co-creation. Where cause-and-effect leads most people towards looking for a single culprit or cause, co-creation recognizes that everything is the result of interactions between several actors. This includes a collective actor known as the environment, which is exactly what the situation and systemic situation makers are that Zimardo talks about. 

photographyprison:

Almost six years have passed since Seymour Hersh’s seminal investigative piece about torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was published in The New Yorker. Shortly after its publication, Colombian-born painter Fernando Botero was on a flight to Paris, equally horrified and fascinated by the details mentioned in the article. He read the full official report and then, without even looking at the disturbing pictures that began to emerge on the press, Botero began to put his impressions on paper and on canvas. The self-titled “most Colombian of Colombian artists” had taken a radical departure from his satirical, but cutesy work, populated by large and rosy-cheeked figures. He has undoubtedly produced (and now presented as a gift to the University of California at Berkeley’s Art Museum) his most overtly political work. As a viewer, you can feel Botero’s pain and empathy towards the victims. His paintings of Abu Ghraib force you to reexamine that shameful episode once again; they engage and disturb you on a level that only fantasy can, especially when reality has already left you desensitized.

photographyprison:

Almost six years have passed since Seymour Hersh’s seminal investigative piece about torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was published in The New Yorker. Shortly after its publication, Colombian-born painter Fernando Botero was on a flight to Paris, equally horrified and fascinated by the details mentioned in the article. He read the full official report and then, without even looking at the disturbing pictures that began to emerge on the press, Botero began to put his impressions on paper and on canvas. The self-titled “most Colombian of Colombian artists” had taken a radical departure from his satirical, but cutesy work, populated by large and rosy-cheeked figures. He has undoubtedly produced (and now presented as a gift to the University of California at Berkeley’s Art Museum) his most overtly political work. As a viewer, you can feel Botero’s pain and empathy towards the victims. His paintings of Abu Ghraib force you to reexamine that shameful episode once again; they engage and disturb you on a level that only fantasy can, especially when reality has already left you desensitized.

Torture can actually impair a person's ability to tell the truth.

"So let’s break this down anatomically. Fact One: To recall information stored in the brain, you must activate a number of areas, especially the prefrontal cortex (site of intentionality) and hippocampus (the door to long-term memory storage). Fact Two: Stress such as that caused by torture releases the hormone cortisol, which can impair cognitive function, including that of the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Studies in which soldiers were subjected to stress in the form of food and sleep deprivation have found that it impaired their ability to recall personal memories and information, as this 2006 study reported. “Studies of extreme stress with Special Forces Soldiers have found that recall of previously-learned information was impaired after stress occurred,” notes O’Mara. “Water-boarding in particular is an extreme stressor and has the potential to elicit widespread stress-induced changes in the brain.”