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Interrogation Strategies for an Unconventional Extremist Enemy

NCJ Number
Polygraph Volume: 36 Issue: 3 Dated: 2007 Pages: 121-132
Philip A. Mullenix
Date Published
12 pages
This article presents an overview of strategies for the interrogation of extremist terrorist suspects.
The interrogation of extremist terrorist suspects is a challenge beyond one’s conventional experience. The demands are unique because the perceptions, sensibilities, and moral compass of the offenders are far removed from Western society. Despite these challenges and immense ideological gulfs, the fact remains that there are fundamental human characteristics common to all. Those characteristics include emotional and intellectual vulnerabilities which are to be exploited to the fullest, with due regard for basic human rights, during the interrogation of terrorists. Against that background, the interrogator’s professionalism needs not be compromised, just sharpened. One caution is to never engage in a tactic which degrades the interrogator’s own self respect. This article outlines four strategies when interrogating extremist terrorist suspects. The first strategy is the assessment of the subject. There are three principal groupings of subjects for purposes of this discussion, on the selection and application of strategies for the interrogation of extremist terrorist suspects: (1) Common Criminals; (2) Nationalists; and (3) Islamic Fundamentalists. The second strategy reflects the interrogator’s conduct. The interrogator should prepare intellectually for various degrees of initial resistance and the frustration or anger which subjects often attempt to ignite in their interrogator. In addition, the interrogator should establish a rapport with the subject, convey self assurance, self respect and respect for the subject, and anticipate a lengthy interrogation. The third strategy is the preliminary interview which is a time to assess the subject’s strengths, vulnerabilities, communication patterns, attitudes, and truthfulness. The fourth and final strategy is the accusatory investigation. During this time, the interrogator turns up the pressure on the subject to obtain a confession. References