Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Interlude: real life

9th March 2015
re. Interrogation techniques

Dear Mr President,

I recently saw a news report on the demonstrations outside Homan Square in Chicago, which included an allegation that one of the law enforcement officers who worked there, Detective Richard Zuley, had also worked at the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay. The article implied that transfers of this sort were not unusual.

I have since found out that the most common technique used in the USA for questioning suspects, the Reid Method, prioritises obtaining a confession rather than gathering information. I find it easy to imagine this style of questioning degenerating into the type of abuses enumerated in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ‘Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program’ (1) from which I quote Dianne Feinstein:

“It is my sincere and deep hope that through the release of these findings (...) U.S. policy will never again allow for secret and indefinite detention and the use of coercive interrogations”

This report states that it has been known within the CIA for some time that non-coercive interrogation methods and humane detainee conditions are better at eliciting accurate information. It is implied that it was the suddenness and urgency of the situation in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that resulted in their being abandoned in place of coercive ones: even, apparently, upon suspects who would have been willing to co-operate.

I infer from this that the main reason for the use of the wrong type of techniques was a lack of available trained personnel.

This looks to me like an opportunity to solve two problems at once: if civilian law-enforcers were trained in non-coercive questioning techniques such as those found by Laurence Alison in the UK (2) to be most effective, this would solve more conventional crimes while also providing a ‘pool’ of ready-trained personnel who could be transferred to interview suspected terrorists effectively and humanely should the need suddenly arise, for example following the breaking-up of a large terrorist cell.

It would also avoid future damage to your country’s reputation overseas: a point made in the Senate Committee study (point #20). This is a matter about which I, personally, know you to care: only last week your ambassador, His Excellency Matthew Barzun, took the trouble to visit my children’s school to discuss our two countries’ ‘special relationship’ and take questions (3). 

Yours sincerely,

(the Real) Dr Verity Player

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