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FM 34-52: Intelligence Interrogation

Chapter 9

Low-Intensity Conflict

This chapter provides concepts and doctrine concerning interrogation assets in LIC operations. Before discussing the use of interrogation assets in a LIC, we must understand the terminology and the US Army operational concept for LIC


LIC is a limited politico-military struggle to achieve political, social, economic, military, or psychological objectives. It is often protracted and ranges from diplomatic, economic, and psycho-social pressures through terrorism and insurgency. LIC is generally confined to a geographic area and is often characterized by constraints on the weaponry, tactics, and level of violence.

The definitions of mid- and high-intensity conflict limit their use to war between nations. These terms, defined here, will not be further discussed.

  • Mid-intensity conflict -- war between two or more nations and their respective allies, if any, in which the belligerents employ the most modern technology and all resources in intelligence; mobility; firepower (excluding nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons); command, control, and communications; and service support for limited objectives under definitive policy limitations as to the extent of destructive power that can be employed or the extent of geographic area that might be involved.
  • High-intensity conflict -- war between two or more nations and their respective allies, if any, in which the belligerents employ the most modern technology and all resources in intelligence; mobility; firepower (including nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons); command, control and communications; and service support.


LIC involves the actual or contemplated use of military capabilities up to, but not including, sustained combat between regular forces.

The factors which lead to LIC are complex and, in many cases, cannot be resolved by short-term actions. Success in this environment is dependent upon the effective application of all elements of national power and clearly defined goals and objectives. Political objectives establish the limits and constraints for military operations, as well as other social, political, and economic programs. The difference between military operations in LIC and the war, as found in mid- or high-intensity levels, lies in the measure of military success. In the latter, military success is measured in terms of winning campaigns and battles. In LIC, however, success will consist of achieving US national objectives without the protracted commitment of US forces in a combat role. It must be noted that, should military intervention be necessary, a premature commitment of US soldiers to combat in a low-intensity situation may result in the loss of strategic initiative. Political, economic, social, and psychological initiatives are necessary to achieve lasting success in the LIC arena.

The US Army's mission in LIC can be divided into four general categories: peacekeeping operations, foreign internal defense (FID), peacetime contingency operations, and terrorism counteraction.

Increasing world tension, continuing conflicts, scarce resources, and general distrust have created environments in which a military force may be employed to achieve, restore, or maintain peace. A peacekeeping mission may present situations that are often ambiguous and may require forces to deal with extreme tension and violence in the form of terrorism, sabotage, and minor military conflicts from known and unknown belligerents.

Given the worldwide nature of US national interests, it is vital to US security to maintain not only the capability to employ force, but also the ability to assist in the peaceful resolution of conflicts. US Army participation in peacekeeping operations may be multinational in nature or may be conducted unilaterally.

Multinational peacekeeping operations are military operations conducted for the purpose of restoring or maintaining peace. They may be undertaken in response to a request for assistance made to either a multinational organization or to the US directly. Historically, the United Nations has been the most frequent sponsor of multinational peacekeeping operations, though regional organizations have acted in a similar fashion to prevent, halt, or contain conflict in their respective regions.

Although unilateral peacekeeping operations are possible, they are inherently sensitive and require tacit international approval. Unilateral peacekeeping operations conducted by the US require clear humanitarian justifications.

The two common missions in peacekeeping operations are cease fire supervision and law and order maintenance.

Cease Fire Supervision

Peacekeeping forces can be deployed to observe and report on compliance with diplomatically arranged cease fires. The force will require the capability for rapid deployment to perform its peacekeeping function and must be initially selfsufficient, have self-defense capability, and possess effective internal and external communications. The terms of the cease fire agreement may call for the peacekeeping force to supervise the withdrawals and disengagements of the belligerents, supervise the exchange of prisoners of war, or monitor demobilization.

Law and Order Maintenance

Peacekeeping operations also include restoration or maintenance of law and order. Traditional civilian law enforcement functions are generally not performed by US military personnel. However, situations may arise which require limited support to duly authorized law enforcement authorities of a receiving state.


FID encompasses those actions taken by civilian and military agencies of one government in any program taken by another government to preclude or defeat insurgency. Insurgencies cannot be overcome by military measures alone but by military support to national programs.

US Army forces operate in concert with other services, both US and host nation and with other US Government agencies. Operations are conducted in support of plans developed by the host nation and the US Government.

US forces involved in FID must have an appreciation of the culture into which they are employed and should be selected, educated, and prepared to ensure that US involvement and goals are understood and complied with. Language capabilities are important and must be developed to the maximum extent possible. Units should be prepared for the FID mission prior to deployment and arrive in the host country established as an effective, cohesive group, prepared to begin operations immediately.

US Army forces can assume various relationships with the host nation's military forces in FID operations. They can serve as advisors or instructors at all levels. Special forces units are specifically trained for this mission. Combat support of CSS units may augment the host nation's efforts and serve to prepare the battlefield for US combat forces, if required. US forces must assume an unobtrusive support role to maintain credibility of the host government.

The manner in which US combat forces are employed will vary with the situation. Because of their familiarity with local communities and population, it is generally better to use indigenous military assets in more populated areas and to employ US combat assets in remote areas.

When US Army combat troops are required for FID operations, planning for their withdrawal begins at the time of deployment. The withdrawal of Army units depends on the capability of the host nation forces to regain and maintain control.


In certain environments, peacetime contingency operations become necessary when diplomatic initiatives have been, or are expected to be, ineffective in achieving extremely time-sensitive, high-value objectives. Failure to influence a belligerent nation or activity through diplomatic means may necessitate the use of military forces to protect US national interests, rescue US citizens, or defend US assets.

Intelligence is a particularly critical part of all peacetime contingency operations. The rapid and tightly controlled introduction of US combat forces is a part of contingency operations which requires precision planning. Accurate, detailed, and timely intelligence determines the success or failure of these operations. Time for planning and execution is typically short, and intelligence assets must be able to anticipate requirements and provide comprehensive products on extremely short notice. City plans with complete detail of utilities, personality profiles of local officials, and details of specific ports, airports, roads, and bridges are examples of information which must be made readily available. Intelligence gathering missions into sensitive areas are also conducted as required.


Terrorism, employed worldwide, may be sponsored by political or other terrorist groups within a nation, sponsored by an external source, or employed as a tactic of insurgents. It is clearly a dimension of warfare which pays high dividends with minimum risk. Population areas, public transport conveyances, industrial facilities, and individuals are high-probability targets for terrorist activities. Terrorist groups increasingly threaten US interests throughout the world.

Terrorism counteraction consists of those actions taken to counter the terrorist threat. Antiterrorism refers to defensive measures taken to reduce vulnerability to terrorist attack. Counterterrorism refers to offensive measures taken against terrorists. Specially trained US Army forces are the main element used in counterterrorism operations.

Intelligence is essential to implementing effective antiterrorism and counterterrorism measures. Its purpose in terrorism counteraction is to identify and quantify the threat and provide timely threat intelligence. This includes the evaluation of terrorist capabilities, tactics, targets, and the dissemination of this information.

Terrorism counteraction varies according to the type of terrorist organization involved. Autonomous terrorist groups, for example, are vulnerable to intelligence and police-type operations. In a different arena, the actions of state-supported and statedirected groups would certainly be sensitive to measures taken against the supporting states.


The principles and techniques of interrogation discussed elsewhere in this manual apply with equal validity to interrogations conducted in LIC operations. Specifc applications of the general principles and techniques must be varied to meet local peculiarities. However, because of these peculiarities of LIC operations, this chapter provides additional guidelines for the conduct of interrogations in support of such operations. Intelligence interrogations play a significant role in ascertaining the development of an insurgency in the latent or initial stage; the intentions, attitudes, capabilities, and limitations of the insurgents; their underground organizations; and their support systems. In addition to the traditional military concepts of intelligence concerning the enemy, terrain, and weather, LIC operations have added a new dimension-the population. The major aim of both the threatened government and the insurgents is to influence the population favorably and win its support.


US military or civilian participation in intelligence interrogations during LIC operations is generally limited to that permitted by the host government concerned. This limitation places certain restrictions on US military and civilian personnel engaged in such operations. The degree of participation will, therefore, be determined by combined US and host-country policies. Normally, the interrogator is asked to advise, assist, and train host-country personnel who are members of the armed forces, paramilitary forces, police, and other security agencies (FM 100-20). The interrogator may also provide intelligence interrogation support to committed US or allied forces during LIC operations. This will require effective, close coordination of the combined effort with host-country agencies. In this respect, coordination problems can be avoided by conducting a combined interrogation effort with interrogators of the host country. Further advantages of such a measure are the language capability and the intimate knowledge of the area personalities, customs, ethnic differences and geography-possessed by the host country's interrogation personnel.


LIC operations intelligence requirements demand detailed familiarity with the military, political, and front organizations of the insurgent enemy and the environment in which he operates.

The interrogator's familiarity with the areas of operations must include an understanding and appreciation of the insurgency, its objectives, history, successes, and failures. This understanding and appreciation is required not only on a general countrywide basis, but also on an expanded basis within the interrogator's particular area of operation. Therefore, it is essential that the intelligence interrogator fully grasps the importance that the insurgent organization places on the accomplishment of political objectives as opposed to military successes.

One measure of the interrogator's effectiveness is his ability to apply the appropriate interrogation techniques to the personality of the source. Interrogations associated with LIC operations dictate the need for skill in the full range of interrogation techniques so that the interrogator can conduct the many types of interrogations demanded.


In some instances, US Army interrogators are assigned to a host country to assist in developing interrogation capabilities of host-country forces. FM 100-20 contains detailed information on advisor duties, techniques, and procedures. However, the operations and relationship of the advisor to host-country interrogators require special mention and are discussed below.

Advisor Qualifications

The advisor must be a qualified, experienced interrogator with an extensive intelligence background. He requires area orientation and must have language ability, and a personality favorable for working with indigenous peoples. The following are normal functions of an interrogation advisor:

  • Establish a working relationship with his counterparts through development of mutual respect and confidence.
  • Provide advice for effective collection through interrogation.
  • Assist in establishing combined interrogation centers.
  • Provide on-the-job training for indigenous interrogators.
  • Assist in the establishment of necessary file systems to support interrogation operations.
  • Conduct appropriate liaison with all units participating in the combined interrogation center.
  • Keep the senior Army intelligence advisor informed on operations and activities within his area.
  • Provide the financial support, as authorized, for interrogation operations to his counterpart.
  • Conduct appropriate coordination with other US intelligence advisors.

Counterpart Relationship

The advisor's accomplishments depend upon the relationship established with his counterpart. This relationship is influenced by the personalities of each. Ideally, this relationship should develop as the counterpart's knowledge of the area combines with the professional knowledge of the advisor. Before he provides advice to his counterpart, the advisor should observe the operation of the unit and become familiar with the area and the local situation. For convenience, his office should be adjacent to that of his counterpart. However, the advisor should not interfere with the routine administrative duties that must be accomplished by his counterpart.

Above all, the advisor must remember that his is an advisory role and not that of a supervisor or commander. He advises the counterpart rather than individuals within the unit. This is important, for advising individuals could result in advice which would be contrary to the orders of the counterpart. In reality, advice is totally accepted only when the counterpart is convinced that the advice is sound and appropriate of the situation.

In cases where the advisor may observe brutal methods in handling and interrogating captives and other detainees, he must not participate in these acts and, further, should remove himself and any other US personnel for whom he is responsible from the scene. Local theater policies and directives normally assign other specified actions for the advisor in a situation of this sort. Such policies and directives may include advising the counterpart of the undesirability of such action and the reporting of the incident through US channels. The advisor must comply with any such theater (or other command) policies and directives.

Advisor Operations

The advisor must emphasize that development of a combined interrogation effort is of the utmost importance to successful operations. This combined capability is achieved by uniting the interrogation resources of all intelligence forces (except tactical) within a specific geographic area of responsibility (that is, national, province, district). Most likely, the advisor will find that in many host countries, interrogation responsibilities will be assigned as follows:

  • Civilian police-suspects and insur gent political cadre.
  • Military interrogators-captured military insurgents and those military insurgents who have rallied to the legally constituted government.
  • Indigenous military counterintelligence-insurgent infiltrators and deserters from host-country forces.

The advisor must stress the integration of all interrogator resources to achieve economy of force and unity of effort. Often this task will be complicated by personalities of the host country, military, and civilian officials. But if harmonious working relationships are established with the key personalities involved, the advisor can succeed in integrating all available resources.

The interrogator (advisor) should establish liaison with US advisors working with host-country tactical forces operating within his area. From these advisors he can be constantly informed of insurgents captured by these tactical forces. The interrogator (advisor) and tactical unit advisor, working together with their respective counterparts, can ensure effective interrogation of these captured insurgents. Further, the advisors can assist in achieving the required coordination between hostcountry tactical units and area forces to improve handling and exploiting interrogation sources.


The status of insurgents in LIC operations differs from that of recognized belligerents; the field of interrogation will encompass a wider variety of sources involved in operations.


EPW interrogations are conducted in support of wartime military operations and are governed by the guidelines and limitations provided by the Geneva Conventions and FM 27-10. However, insurgent subversive underground elements who are seeking to overthrow an established government in an insurgency do not hold legal status as belligerents (see DA Pam 27-161-1). Since these subversive activities are clandestine or covert in nature, individuals operating in this context seek to avoid open involvement with host-government police and military security forces. Hence, any insurgent taken into custody by host-government security forces may not be protected by the Geneva Conventions beyond the basic protections in Article 3. The insurgent will be subject to the internal security laws of the country concerning subversion and lawlessness. Action of US forces, however, will be governed by existing agreements with the host country and by the provisions of Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.


LIC operations place the population in the position of a prime target. Therefore, the population becomes a principal source of intelligence. The population with which the interrogator will have to deal may be composed of friendly, hostile, or completely indifferent elements. In dealing with these population elements, as well as with the insurgents, the desires of the host country must be considered. There is a need to gain the support of the population to deprive the insurgents of their primary sources of support. Such a need places a burden upon the interrogator to learn more about the people -- their customs and taboos (by ethnic groups, if appropriate), distrust and fear of foreigners, fear of insurgent reprisal, philosophy or outlook on life, and other facets of their political, economic, and social institutions. Since CI elements are tasked with the mission of countersubversion, the primary responsibility of identifying insurgent operations within the population is placed upop CI personnel. Therefore, it is essential that the intelligence interrogator maintain close and continuous coordination with CI personnel to ensure complete exploitation of the population.


The individual insurgent may lack many of the conventional psychological supports which are helpful in resisting interrogation. Often he is in conflict with his own people, perhaps of the same ethnic group, religion, environment, or even, in some cases, his family. Further, the insurgent has no legal status as an EPW and, therefore, realizes he may be considered a common criminal. The insurgent often expects to receive harsh and brutal treatment after capture. If he does not receive this harsh treatment, the psychological effect may make him amenable to the interrogator. In addition, the shock effect normally induced by capture will further increase his susceptibility to interrogation. Therefore, the individual insurgent may rationalize cooperation with the interrogator as the best course of action for his survival.

Although the insurgent often lacks conventional psychological support, as previously discussed, the interrogator should realize that other support may have been furnished him through intensive political and psychological indoctrination and training to resist interrogation. Indoctrination sessions using such techniques as self and group criticism can give insurgents a strong group identification and fanatical belief in the insurgent cause.

The entire range of insurgent activity is vulnerable to mass interrogation of the populace. Since the insurgent's operations are often contingent on the support of the populace, members of the populace inevitably learn the identities and activities of the insurgent. With large numbers of people knowing him, the insurgent is vulnerable to mass screening and interrogation programs. Success of such programs may be enhanced by the insurgent's previously committed acts of terror, tax collection, and forced recruitment, which will have alienated some members of the population.


Insurgency is identified as a condition resulting from a revolt or insurrection against a constituted government which falls short of civil war. It is not usually a conflict of international character, and it is not a recognized belligerency. Therefore, insurgent captives are not guaranteed full protection under the articles of the Geneva Conventions relative to the handling of EPWs. However, Article 3 of the Conventions requires that insurgent captives be humanely treated and forbids violence to life and person -- in particular murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture. It further forbids commitment of outrages upon personal dignity, taking of hostages, passing of sentences, and execution without prior judgment by a regularly constituted court.

Humane treatment of insurgent captives should extend far beyond compliance with Article 3, if for no other reason than to render them more suceptible to interrogation. The insurgent is trained to expect brutal treatment upon capture. If, contrary to what he has been led to believe, this mistreatment is not forthcoming, he is apt to become psychologically softened for interrogation. Furthermore, brutality by either capturing troops or friendly interrogators will reduce defections and serve as grist for the insurgent's propaganda mill.

Special care must be taken in handling insurgent suspects, for their degree of sympathy with the insurgency usually is not readily apparent. Improper handling of such persons may foster sympathies for the insurgency or induce them to remain passive at a time when the host country requires active support from its citizens.


Recognizing vulnerability to interrogation, the insurgent counters by taking any of the following actions:

  • Keeps his forces ignorant of future operations, unit designations, and true names of leaders.
  • Assigns multiple designations to units, frequently changes them, and uses aliases for names of leaders.
  • Hires informants to watch and report on the people and commits reprisals against those who provide information to the government
  • Instructs his forces to remain silent upon capture for a given period of time. This lapse in time tends to decrease the value of the information which is ultimately revealed to hostile interrogators.
  • Provides plausible cover stories to hide true information.
  • Indoctrinates his forces with ideological training.
  • Publicizes cases where captives have been killed or mistreated by capturing forces.
  • Screens his recruits carefully.
  • Uses cellular structure to restrict knowledge of personnel and operations.


The characteristics and knowledge of interrogation sources vary widely, based upon the position, status, and mission of the insurgent within his organization. The interrogator's appraisal of these factors, coupled with his own knowledge of the source and the organization to which he belongs, will assist in quickly evaluating the informational potential of each source. Interrogation sources vary and include the combatant, terrorist, propagandist, courier, political cadre, and intelligence agent. They may be young or old, male or female, educated or illiterate. General characteristics and knowledgeability of the more common types are discussed below.

Main and Local Forces

The main force combatant is the best indoctrinated, trained, led, disciplined, and equipped of all insurgent forces. He will know more, but may be inclined to reveal less than a local force insurgent or a member of the village militia. When properly interrogated, however, he can be expected to be a fruitful source of information on his unit and its personnel; current and past military operations; supply and base areas; status of training and morale; some information of higher, lower, and adjacent units; routes of infiltration and exfiltration; tactics and general information on his area of operations. In short, he may be likened to the more conventional prisoner of war and will be knowledgeable on topics akin to that type of individual. He will differ, however, in that his knowledge of units other than his own will be far less than that of the conventional prisoner of war. Generally speaking, the local force insurgent soldier (the second component of the insurgent regular armed forces) will be almost as valuable as a main force soldier for interrogation purposes. His knowledge will depend primarily upon the methods of operation used by the insurgent movement in the employment of its regular armed forces.


Compared to the main and local force insurgent, the local village militia member is often poorly trained, disciplined, and equipped. While he is not likely to be a profitable source of information on regular force units, his native familiarity with the area in which he operates makes him a most valuable source on local terrain, insurgent infrastructure, food and weapons caches, lines of communications and logistics, intelligence operations, and OB information on his own militia unit. When cooperative, he, likewise, can be used to identify local insurgent sympathizers within his area.

Political Cadre

This individual is a profitable interrogation source for obtaining information on the composition and operation of the insurgent's political structure. At the lowest level (hamlet and village) he normally wears "two hats," one as the political leader, the other as the commander of the militia. At higher levels the individual is more political in orientation and can provide information on cell members, front organizations, sympathizers, and nets. He is also knowledgeable on the military units within his area, their lines and methods of communications, and future plans and operations of both the political and military organizations.


This individual may be a sympathizer in fact or one of circumstance-that is, through blackmail, terror, or relatives being held hostage. In either event, if skillfully interrogated, the sympathizer can become the most fruitful source of information on one of the greatest and most perplexing questions of insurgency--"How do you tell the difference between friend and foe?" The sympathizer coerced into assisting the insurgent is, of course, the most useful type of individual, but care must be taken to protect him after he has revealed useful information.


These individuals are perhaps the best source of information available during LIC. They are usually cooperative and easily susceptible to direct approach interrogation techniques. The most important feature of interrogating defectors is the capability to exploit physically the individual who voluntarily agrees to accompany friendly personnel into tactical operations areas. The primary methods of exploiting defectors are to use them as tactical guides and advisors, as informants, as aides in interrogation and document analysis, and as advisors on enemy agent net modus operandi. It should be noted, however, that some of these techniques involve personal danger for the defector, and for that reason, he should be provided appropriate protective equipment. Coercion cannot be used to induce his cooperation. However, when defectors are employed to accomplish objectives, as discussed in FM 34-60, they will be controlled only by qualified CI personnel.



The screening of insurgent captives and suspects is the key to productive interrogation by CI personnel. Screening is a twofold operation conducted to identify insurgents or their sympathizers in the population and, of these, to find the most knowledgeable individuals for interrogation. Techniques for accomplishing these functions are varied and depend mainly upon the imagination and ingenuity of screener personnel. For this reason, only the most resourceful interrogators should be selected as screeners. Examples of successful screening aids and techniques are discussed below.

Local Leader

The local leader, whether a government official, religious personage, teacher or village elder, is a useful screening assistant. This individual knows the people, their habits and activities. He knows the legitimate resident from the stranger and can often point out insurgents and their sympathizers in his area. However, since the local leader is vulnerable to insurgent terror or reprisals, his overt use in screening may be sometimes limited. When employed in an overt capacity, he will always require protection later. The mere fact that a man is a constituted local leader should never be viewed as prima facie evidence of loyalty to the host-country government. A leader may be secretly or tacitly supporting the insurgency or may, for personal political reasons, discredit political rivals with false accusations.

Insurgent Captive

The insurgent captive can be used as a "finger man" in a police-type line-up, an excellent means of mass screening. As the entire population of a community files past, the captive points out those individuals loyal to the insurgency. A police "mug file" is a useful variant of this technique. Here the captive reviews photographs taken from family registries.

Agent or Friendly Civilian

The line-up or the "mug file," described above, is most productive when friendly agents and civilians are used as screening assistants. However, care should be taken to hide the identity of these individuals by placing them behind a barrier or covering their faces. An excellent source for employment of this technique is the individual who has close relatives within the government or its military forces.

Area Cordon

A good method to screen a community is to cordon off the area and restrict the inhabitants to their homes. All movement thereafter must be strictly controlled and regulated. With this accomplishment, each member of the community is questioned regarding the identities of party members and sympathizers for the same length of time and with the same questions. If the desired information is not obtained after completion of all questioning, the process should begin again and continue until people start to talk. Once information is obtained, the members of the local insurgent infrastructure are apprehended simultaneously and removed from the community for intensive, detailed interrogation.

Informant Technique

This technique involves placement of a friendly individual among a group of suspects or captives. The individual acts out the role of an insurgent sympathizer to gain the confidence of the group and to learn the identity of the true insurgents and their leaders.


The interrogation of illiterate sources requires special questioning techniques. The interrogator is after facts, and eliciting such simple data from illiterates as "size" or "how many" is often difficult. The interrogator must agree on common terminology with his source so that he can communicate and obtain the information he desires. He can use a system of holding up fingers on his hands, marking on a piece of paper, or using matchsticks, pieces of wood, or other materials to determine numerical facts. In determining types of weapons, the interrogator can show actual weapons, photographs, or drawings of weapons from which the source can make a comparison with what he actually saw. Description of colors can be made from pieces of materials or color charts. Direction of movement may be found out by location of the sun, stars, or landmarks familiar to the source. Time can be determined by the position of the sun, locating a traveled route and then computing how rapidly the source walked, or finding out how often he stopped and how many meals he ate. The methods discussed are examples of common terminology or reference points which an interrogator employs. Additionally, knowledge of the specific habits of the populace and of the area allows the interrogator to select a definite term of reference.

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