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FM 34-52: Intelligence Interrogation

Chapter 1

Interrogation and the Interrogator

Interrogation is the art of questioning and examining a source to obtain the maximum amount of usable information. The goal of any interrogation is to obtain usable and reliable information, in a lawful manner and in the least amount of time, which meets intelligence requirements of any echelon of command. Sources may be civilian internees, insurgents, EPWs, defectors, refugees, displaced persons, and agents or suspected agents. A successful interrogation produces needed information which is timely, complete, clear, and accurate. An interrogation involves the interaction of two personalities: the source and the interrogator. Each contact between these two differs to some degree because of their individual characteristics and capabilities, and because the circumstances of each contact and the physical environment vary.


Intelligence interrogations are of many types, such as the interview, debriefing, and elicitation. However, the principles of objective, initiative, accuracy, prohibitions against the use of force, and security apply to all types.


The objective of any interrogation is to obtain the maximun amount of usable information possible in the least amount of time. Each interrogation has a definite purpose?to obtain information to satisfy the assigned requirement which contributes to the successful accomplishment of the supported unit's mission. The interrogator must keep this purpose firmly in mind as he obtains the information. The objective may be specific, establishing the exact location of a minefield, or it may be general, seeking order of battle (OB) information about a specific echelon of the enemy forces. In either case, the interrogator uses the objective as a basis for planning and conducting the interrogation. He should not concentrate on the objective to the extent that he overlooks or fails to recognize and exploit other valuable information extracted from the source. For example, during an interrogation, he learns of an unknown, highly destructive weapon. Although this information may not be in line with his specific objective, he develops this lead to obtain all possible information concerning this weapon. It is then obvious that the objective of an interrogation can be changed as necessary or desired.


Achieving and maintaining the initiative is essential to a successful interrogation just as the offense is the key to success in combat operations. The interrogator must remain in charge throughout the interrogation. He has certain advantages at the beginning of an interrogation, such as the psychological shock the source receives when becoming a prisoner of war, which enable him to grasp the initiative and assist him in maintaining it. An interrogator may lose control during the interrogation by allowing the source to take control of the interrogation. If this occurs, he must postpone the interrogation and reassess the situation. To resume the interrogation, a different interrogator should conduct the interrogation. In addition, the interrogator must identify and exploit leads developed during the interrogation.


The interrogator makes every effort to obtain accurate information from the source. He assesses the source correctly by repeating questions at varying intervals. The interrogator, however, is not the final analyst and should not reject or degrade information because it conflicts with previously obtained information. The interrogator's primary mission is the collection of information, not evaluation. Conversely, the interrogator should not accept all information as the truth; he views all information obtained with a degree of doubt. If possible, and when time permits, he should attempt to confirm information received and annotate less credible or unproven information. It is of great importance to report accurate information to the using elements. The interrogator checks his notes against the finished report to ensure that the report contains and identifies the information as heard, seen, or assumed by the source.


The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor. condoned by the US Government. Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear. However, the use of force is not to be confused with psychological ploys, verbal trickery, or other nonviolent and noncoercive ruses used by the interrogator in questioning hesitant or uncooperative sources.

The psychological techniques and principles outlined should neither be confused with, nor construed to be synonymous with, unauthorized techniques such as brainwashing, mental torture, or any other form of mental coercion to include drugs. These techniques and principles are intended to serve as guides in obtaining the willing cooperation of a source. The absence of threats in interrogation is intentional, as their enforcement and use normally constitute violations of international law and may result in prosecution under the UCMJ.

Additionally, the inability to carry out a threat of violence or force renders an interrogator ineffective should the source challenge the threat. Consequently, from both legal and moral viewpoints, the restrictions established by international law, agreements, and customs render threats of force, violence, and deprivation useless as interrogation techniques.


The interrogator, by virtue of his position, possesses a great deal of classified information. He is aware constantly that his job is to obtain information, not impart it to the source. He safeguards military information at all times as well as the source of information. This becomes very clear when one considers that among those persons with whom the interrogator has contact, there are those attempting to collect information for the enemy. The interrogator is alert to detect any attempt made by the source to elicit information.


The interrogator is concerned primarily with two sources of information in his intelligence collection effort: human sources and material sources (mainly captured enemy documents (CEDs)). The senior interrogator, depending on the supported commander's priority intelligence requirements (PIR) and information requirements (IR), decides which of these sources will be more effective in the intelligence collection effort.


The interrogator encounters many sources who vary greatly in personality, social class, civilian occupation, military specialty, and political and religious beliefs. Their physical conditions may range from near death to perfect health, their intelligence levels may range from well below average to well above average, and their security consciousness may range from the lowest to the highest. Sources may be civilian internees, insurgents, EPWs, defectors, refugees, displaced persons, and agents or suspected agents. Because of these variations, the interrogator makes a careful study of every source to evaluate his mental, emotional, and physical state and uses it as a basis for interrogation. He deals mainly with three categories of sources: cooperative and friendly, neutral and nonpartisan, and hostile and antagonistic.

Cooperative and Friendly

A cooperative and friendly source offers little resistance to the interrogation and normally speaks freely on almost any topic introduced, other than that which will tend to incriminate or degrade him personally. To obtain the maximum amount of information from cooperative and friendly sources, the interrogator takes care to establish and to preserve a friendly and cooperative atmosphere by not inquiring into those private affairs which are beyond the scope of the interrogation. At the same time, he must avoid becoming overly friendly and losing control of the interrogation.

Neutral and Nonpartisan

A neutral and nonpartisan source is cooperative to a limited degree. He normally takes the position of answering questions asked directly, but seldom volunteers information. In some cases, he may be afraid to answer for fear of reprisals by the enemy. This often is the case in low-intensity conflict (LIC) where the people may be fearful of insurgent reprisals. With the neutral and nonpartisan source, the interrogator may have to ask many specific questions to obtain the information required.

Hostile and Antagonistic

A hostile and antagonistic source is most difficult to interrogate. In many cases, he refuses to talk at all and offers a real challenge to the interrogator. An interrogator must have self?control, patience, and tact when dealing with him. As a rule, at lower echelons, it is considered unprofitable to expend excessive time and effort in interrogating hostile and antagonistic sources. When time is available and the source appears to be an excellent target for exploitation, he should be isolated and repeatedly interrogated to obtain his cooperation. A more concentrated interrogation effort can be accomplished at higher levels, such as corps or echelons above corps (EAC), where more time is available to exploit hostile and antagonistic sources.


CEDs include any piece of recorded information which has been in the possession of a foreign nation and comes into US possession. This includes US documents which the foreign nation may have possessed. There are numerous ways to acquire a document, some of the most common ways are: found in the possession of human sources, on enemy dead, or on the battlefield. There are two types of documents: (1) official (government or military) documents such as overlays, field orders, maps, and codes; (2) personal (private or commercial) documents such as letters, diaries, newspapers, and books.


An interrogator should possess an interest in human nature and have a personality which will enable him to gain the cooperation of a source. Ideally, these and other personal qualities would be inherent in an interrogator; however, in most cases, an interrogator can correct some deficiencies in these qualities if he has the desire and is willing to devote time to study and practice. Some desirable personal qualities in an interrogator are motivation, alertness, patience and tact, credibility, objectivity, self?control, adaptability, perseverence, and personal appearance and demeanor.


An interrogator may be motivated by several factors, for example, an interest in human relations, a desire to react to the challenge of personal interplay, an enthusiasm for the collection of information, or just a profound interest in foreign languages and cultures. Whatever the motivation, it is the most significant factor used by an interrogator to achieve success. Without motivation, other qualities lose their significance. The stronger the motivation, the more successful the interrogator.


The interrogator must be constantly aware of the shifting attitudes which normally characterize a source's reaction to interrogation. He notes the source's every gesture, word, and voice inflection. He determines why the source is in a certain mood or why his mood suddenly changed. It is from the source's mood and actions that the interrogator determines how to best proceed with the interrogation. He watches for any indication that the source is withholding information. He must watch for a tendency to resist further questioning, for diminishing resistance, for contradictions, or other tendencies, to include susceptibility.


The interrogator must have patience and tact in creating and maintaining rapport between himself and the source, thereby, enhancing the success of the interrogation. Additionally, the validity of the source's statements and the motives behind these statements may be obtainable only through the exercise of tact and patience. Displaying impatience encourages the difficult source to think that if he remains unresponsive for a little longer, the interrogator will stop his questioning. The display of impatience may cause the source to lose respect for the interrogator, thereby, reducing his effectiveness. An interrogator, with patience and tact, is able to terminate an interrogation and later continue further interrogation without arousing apprehension or resentment.


The interrogator must maintain credibility with the source and friendly forces. Failure to produce material rewards when promised may adversely affect future interrogations. The importance of accurate reporting cannot be overstressed, since interrogation reports are often the basis for tactical decisions and operations.


The interrogator must maintain an objective and a dispassionate attitude, regardless of the emotional reactions he may actually experience, or which he may simulate during the interrogation. Without this required objectivity, he may unconsciously distort the information acquired. He may also be unable to vary his interrogation techniques effectively.


The interrogator must have an exceptional degree of self-control to avoid displays of genuine anger, irritation, sympathy, or weariness which may cause him to lose the initiative during the interrogation. Self-control is especially important when employing interrogation techniques which require the display of simulated emotions or attitudes.


An interrogator must adapt himself to the many and varied personalities which he will encounter. He should try to imagine himself in the source's position. By being able to adapt, he can smoothly shift his techniques and approaches during interrogations. He must also adapt himself to the operational environment. In many cases, he has to conduct interrogations under a variety of unfavorable physical conditions.


A tenacity of purpose, in many cases, will make the difference between an interrogator who is merely good and one who is superior. An interrogator who becomes easily discouraged by opposition, non-cooperation, or other difficulties will neither aggressively pursue the objective to a successful conclusion nor seek leads to other valuable information.


The interrogator's personal appearance may greatly influence the conduct of the interrogation and the attitude of the source toward the interrogator. Usually a neat, organized, and professional appearance will favorably influence the source. A firm, deliberate, and businesslike manner of speech and attitude may create a proper environment for a successful interrogation. If the interrogator's personal manner reflects fairness, strength, and efficiency, the source may prove cooperative and more receptive to questioning. However, depending on the approach techniques, the interrogator can decide to portray a different (for example, casual, sloven) appearance and demeanor to obtain the willing cooperation of the source.


The interrogator must be knowledgeable and qualified to efficiently and effectively exploit human and material sources which are of potential intelligence interest. He is trained in the techniques and proficiency necessary to exploit human and material sources. His initial training is in foreign language, and his entry?level training is in the exploitation of documents and human sources. The interrogator must possess, or acquire through training and experience, special skills and knowledge.


The most essential part of the interrogator's intelligence collection effort is reporting the information obtained. Hence, he must prepare and present both written and oral reports in a clear, complete, concise, and accurate manner. He must possess a good voice and speak English and a foreign language idiomatically and without objectionable accent or impediment.

Knowledge of a foreign language is necessary since interrogators work primarily with non?English speaking people. Language ability should include a knowledge of military terms, foreign idioms, abbreviations, colloquial and slang usages, and local dialects. Although a trained interrogator who lacks a foreign language skill can interrogate successfully through an interpreter, the results obtained by the linguistically proficient interrogator will be more timely and comprehensive. Language labs, tapes, or instructors should be made available wherever possible to provide refresher and enhancement training for interrogator linguists.


Interrogation operations contribute to the accomplishment of the supported commander's mission. The interrogator must have a working knowledge of the US Army's missions, organizations, weapons and equipment, and methods of operation. This knowledge enables him to judge the relative significance of the information he extracts from the source.


Every interrogator should be knowledgeable about his unit's target country, such as armed forces uniforms and insignia, OB information, and country familiarity.

Armed Forces Uniforms and Insignia

Through his knowledge of uniforms, insignia, decorations, and other distinctive devices, the interrogator may be able to determine the rank, branch of service, type of unit, and military experience of a military or paramilitary source. During the planning and preparation and the approach phases, later discussed in this manual, the identification of uniforms and insignia is very helpful to the interrogator.

Order of Battle Information

OB is defined as the identification, strength, command structure, and disposition of personnel, units, and equipment of any military force. OB elements are separate categories by which detailed information is maintained. They are composition, disposition, strength, training, combat effectiveness, tactics, logistics, electronic technical data, and miscellaneous data. During the questioning phase, OB elements assist the interrogator in verifying the accuracy of the information obtained and can be used as an effective tool to gain new information. Aids which may be used to identify units are names of units, names of commanders, home station identifications, code designations and numbers, uniforms, insignia, guidons, documents, military postal system data, and equipment and vehicle markings.

Country Familiarity

The interrogator should be familiar with the social, political, and economic institutions; geography; history; and culture of the target country. Since many sources will readily discuss nonmilitary topics, the interrogator may induce reluctant prisoners to talk by discussing the geography, economics, or politics of the target country. He may, then, gradually introduce significant topics into the discussion to gain important insight concerning the conditions and attitudes in the target country. He should keep abreast of major events as they occur in the target country. By knowing the current events affecting the target country, the interrogator will better understand the general situation in the target country, as well as the causes and repercussions.


Interrogators must be proficient in all common soldier skills. However, map reading and enemy material and equipment are keys to the performance of interrogator duties.

Map Reading

Interrogators must read maps well enough to map track using source information obtained about locations of enemy activities. Through the use of his map tracking skills, the interrogator can obtain information on the locations of enemy activities from sources who can read a map. Furthermore, his map reading skills are essential to translate information into map terminology from sources who cannot read a map. Map reading procedures are outlined in FM 21-26.

Enemy Material and Equipment

The interrogator should be familiar with the capabilities, limitations, and employment of standard weapons and equipment so that he may recognize and identify changes, revisions, and innovations. Some of the more common subjects of interest to the interrogator include small arms, infantry support weapons, artillery, aircraft, vehicles, communications equipment, and NBC defense. FM 100-2-3 provides information on enemy material and equipment.

Specialized Training

The interrogator requires specialized training in international regulations, security, and neurolinguistics.

International Agreements

The interrogator should know international regulations on the treatment of prisoners of war and the general principles of the Law of Land Warfare and The Hague and Geneva Conventions.


Interrogators must know how to identify, mark, handle, and control sensitive material according to AR 380-5. He should have received special training on Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the Army (SAEDA).


Neurolinguistics is a behavioral communications model and a set of procedures that improve communication skills. The interrogator should read and react to nonverbal communications. An interrogator can best adapt himself to the source's personality and control his own reactions when he has an understanding of basic psychological factors, traits, attitudes, drives, motivations, and inhibitions.

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